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Kelly Canon, longtime Arlington Republican, dies after hospitalization with COVID, pneumonia

A sign shows the outside of the Arlington City Council chamber
Neetish Basnet/Fort Worth Report
Arlington political organizer Kelly Canon was a driving force behind ending the city's traffic camera program. Canon died Jan. 10 after being hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia.

Activist Kelly Canon's death shocked Republican organizers in North Texas.

Kelly Canon, a vice president of the Arlington Republican Club, died Monday of complications related to COVID-19.

She had told friends she was on the mend after being hospitalized for COVID and pneumonia. Former Arlington City Council member and state representative Barbara Nash said she spoke with Canon the day before she died.

“She said, ‘My counts are better. I’m doing better,’” Nash recalled.

It’s unclear whether Canon died of complications from COVID or related pneumonia complications, Nash and Arlington Republican Club President Mark Hanson said.

Canon had a hand in local, regional and state politics for years. She’s best known for leading a petition drive and campaign to ban traffic light cameras in Arlington in 2015, and statewide by 2019. The local Republican club announced her death Monday evening on their private Facebook group as “another tragedy and loss” for local Republicans. Donna Hertel, an Arlington Republican Club vice president, died Jan. 7.

“Our dear friend Kelly Canon lost her battle with pneumonia today," the post read. "Kelly will be forever in our hearts as a loyal and beloved friend and Patriot."

Not everyone remembered Canon fondly, though, pointing to since-deleted Facebook posts containing misinformation about COVID vaccinations and her recent attendance at an anti-vaccination December symposium in Burleson,according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.Canon wrote on Facebook in November that her employer granted her a religious exemption request from vaccination. Posts from her account about the symposium and the vaccine appeared to have been deleted by 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Hanson admonished the posts, which he said were mainly from people who do not live in Arlington and do not know Canon.

“Let’s have a debate about the vaccine and COVID, but on a site meant to help people remember Kelly is not the time or place,” he said.

Barbara Nash said she spent Tuesday deleting comments from people who spoke ill of Canon.

“I think it’s unconscionable to talk evil of the dead, and she was a very nice person,” Nash said.

Political activism

Canon spearheaded a petition drive through the Arlington Tea Party to ban red light cameras. More than 11,000 signed, and residents voted to prohibit cameras in 2015.

Teresa Rushing, who worked with Canon during the Arlington campaign, described Canon as “very, very passionate.”

“I nicknamed her the general,” Rushing said. “She was always good at rallying the troops and getting us out there and getting stuff done.”

Later, Canon went after camera enforcement in Fort Worth and statewide. The state legislature banned traffic cameras in 2019.

State Rep. Matt Krause, a Fort Worth Republican, said in a Facebook post he was pleased to serve on a committee that Canon testified before on traffic cameras. He shared a picture of her before the dais.

“This is how I will remember her - a passionate defender and advocate for the causes she believed in,” Krause wrote. “No one worked harder on the red light issue in Texas than Kelly.”

Canon also made headlines when she shared private exchanges with former U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, who reportedly sent her Facebook messages with sexual overtones, according to the Star-Telegram. Barton announced his retirement shortly after Canon shared the exchange and after a nude photo of him circulated on social media.

Canon also ran for city council in 2016, but lost the north Arlington race to incumbent Charlie Parker.

That didn’t stop Canon from remaining involved in hot-button city issues, including the campaign against subsidizing taxpayer dollars to build Globe Life Field and for term limits on mayor and council members.

In addition to the Arlington Republican Club, Canon was an Arlington Tea Party officer and former Tarrant County Republican precinct chair.

State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, an Arlington Republican, said Canon was one of his first supporters, and referred to her as his “campaign co-manager.”

“I truly feel if it was not for her help, I would not be in the position that I am in now,” Tinderholt wrote on Facebook. “For that I am forever grateful.”

Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.