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Arlington mayor's race focused on economic development, keeping momentum for city's businesses

Amy Cearnal, left, wears a sapphire blue top and hoop earings. She has shoulder length blonde hair and poses in front of a blurred background. To her right, in a separate photo, Mayor Jim Ross wears a dark blue suit with a dark blue tie and a white shirt. Cearnal, a realtor and business owner, and Ross, a business owner and attorney, filed in the mayor race May 6, 2023.
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Amy Cearnal/Jim Ross
Realtor Amy Cearnal and incumbent Jim Ross, an attorney and business owner, are focusing on economic development in the race for Arlington mayor.

Arlington's mayor race May 6 is all about economic development momentum and growth, as the city prepares to hold major sporting events and for some of its older shopping centers to redevelop.

Incumbent Jim Ross said his campaign for a second term is about keeping the course. He said his priorities remain the same when he won his first term in 2021: housing, education, job growth and transportation.

His opponent, Amy Cearnal, said her campaign for a first term is about offering voters a choice. Cearnal, a realtor, said she has considered running for a while. She threw her name in the race on the last day of filing, after seeing Ross would otherwise go uncontested.

“We just feel like that’s never the best thing for all of us, that we need to make sure that we’re always keeping government in check and making sure that everything is running as smoothly as it can,” she said. “I wanted to just come in and be a part of the race and show a different alternative.”

Cearnal said she’s on a listening tour to hear voters’ concerns. A common theme among residents, she said, is concern the city disproportionately dedicates resources to the entertainment district instead of the rest of the city.

“We just want to make sure that we don’t move towards more of a New Orleans feel, where we focus so much on one area that, then, the others fall short of it,” she said.

Ross, who won his first term after a crowded eight-person general election, said the city has made progress with job creation during his first term.

“We’ve brought some good companies in here in the last couple of years that are really doing some wonderful job creation, and we have more in the pipeline,” Ross said.

Ross said Arlington in the next few years must contend with addressing homelessness and adding more housing. The city has plenty of mid-sized houses but lacks starter homes as well as those residents look for to downsize.

“We have to really get creative on how to address adequate housing for everybody and how to address homelessness issues, food deprivation, things like that that plague every community our size,” Ross said.

Ross also emphasized promoting inclusivity in city government, an effort that has drawn criticism, most notably from people opposed to the city’s June Pride Month proclamation and displays that acknowledge the LGBTQ community.

Ross noted last summer that people threatened to vote him out.

“I know that there has been a small contingent of people in Arlington that do not agree with my position on inclusivity. I’m OK with that. I believe that’s what makes democracy great (is that) we can disagree,” Ross said.

Asked for comment, Cearnal said she doesn’t consider herself a partisan candidate.

“I think this race is about filling potholes and working with the city and doing those things that don’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat. I really would love to see the city as a whole really stay out of the social issues and really focus on how we can make Arlington the best that it can be,” she said.

Cearnal owns Front Real Estate Co. and works as a broker. She was president elect for Arlington Board of Realtors but stepped down shortly after announcing her candidacy. Her volunteer and board service includes Ross’ Real Estate and Women advisory councils; the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce; and Women Inspiring Philanthropy.

She said she would like to use those collaborations if elected mayor.

“It really is more of just coming at it from a shoulder-to-shoulder perspective and wanting to be there with the residents and listening to what they are looking for,” Cearnal said.

Ross owns Jim Ross Law Group, as well as the restaurants Mercury Chophouse and Hearsay Arlington. He’s a former U.S. Marine and Arlington Police officer who was a part of the city’s first full-time SWAT team. Ross chairs the United States Conference of Mayor’s Veteran Affairs Committee.

Early voting runs from April 24 through May 2. The deadline to register to vote is April 6. More information on the May 6 general election can be found on the Arlington city and Tarrant County websites.

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Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for KERA News and The Arlington Report. Broussard has covered Arlington since 2020 and began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before joining the station in 2021.