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Fort Worth's District 9 Runoff Could Be Close

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Fort Worth, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter: With days before next Tuesday's runoff election, both candidates are meeting with supporters in their headquarters as cold rain falls outside. Joel Burns, who's seeking his first elected office, says he's counted on volunteers to get this far.

Joel Burns, District 9 Fort Worth City Council Candidate: We've consistently had 20-25 volunteers. I know other campaigns in the first round had to employ paid walkers. We've had volunteers.

Zeeble: Burns says with their help, he got the most votes among the 6 candidates last month. Volunteer Gaye Reed picked Burns after attending candidate forums.

Gaye Reed, Burns volunteer: He's served the community well on the Landmarks Commission, served on the Parks Commission. Now on the Planning & Zoning commission. He's paid his dues and knows what's going on at city hall and has been part of this community a long time.

Zeeble: And now that Wendy Davis has resigned, Burns sees his chance to sit on the council. He grew up around here. He was born 38 years ago at the Edna Gladney Center for Adoption, nearby in the neighborhood . He says he's received a lot from this community and is running to give back.

Burns: Neighborhood safety is key. People want to feel safe in their neighborhoods. And as a realtor I see that all the time. People don't want to move into a neighborhood where they feel their kids are threatened, property values are threatened, or their safety's threatened.

Zeeble: Burns says he's a consensus builder who brings differing sides to the table for solutions that benefit all stakeholders. At Juan Rangel's headquarters, volunteers including Velia Lopez, praise their candidate for his accomplishments in 8 years on the Fort Worth ISD school board. She says students are better off thanks to his service.

Velia Lopez, volunteer: Now he's wanting to expand and take a step over that and go to the city level. And I believe his serving on the city council he'll continue to do the good things that he's done and has been doing.

Zeeble: While Burns' backers say school board experience is different than what's needed on city council, Juan Rangel disagrees. He says both buy property, use eminent domain, tax the public, and share other, similar jobs. Among his campaign priorities - he wants a temporary moratorium on gas drilling near the Trinity River. He worries the drill site's dirty water could pollute the area.

Juan Rangel, Fort Worth Council District 9 candidate: They could damage the Trinity River. It's so near, the location of that well, it's so near the Trinity River that I just think we're playing with danger there.

Zeeble: Opponent Burns characterizes Rangel's approach as a just say no drilling policy. Burns favors more stringent gas drilling ordinances designed to keep neighborhoods safer, but not a temporary moratorium. TCU Political Science Professor Jim Riddlesperger says this race could be close, & sees no big difference between the two. The outcome, he says will come down to what he calls personal politics.

TCU Political Science Professor Jim Riddlesperger: Council elections are personal elections, people to people. Juan Rangel is using his connections to contact voters and Joel Burns is doing the same thing. What you see is personal style politics.

Zeeble: The Fort Worth runoff election for council district, (and the legislative race in district 97) is Tuesday, December 18th. Bill Zeeble KERA news. Bzeeble@Kera.Org