According to chamber president Michael Jacobson, the purpose of the forum was to “get to know the candidates,” and give them a chance to “define who they are and where they stand on the issues.”
Each candidate was allowed a three-minute opening statement and nine minutes to answer up to six questions, which were provided in advance.
The questions related to priorities for the county, cultivating small businesses, leadership style, and infrastructure to support the county’s needs.
Candidates spoke in the order they appear on the ballot.
Republican Tim O’Hare was first to speak. He noted his upbringing in Farmers Branch by a single mother who instilled in him “a love of God, family, and country.” He now lives with his wife and four daughters in the northeast Tarrant County community of Southlake.
He has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Texas in Austin and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.
He said he is running because he believes he will be the “reliable, disciplined leader” that Tarrant County needs.
Among his priorities as county judge, O’Hare said he will lower property taxes, noting that Tarrant County does not offer a homestead exemption as allowed by state law.
He also said he would be supportive of law enforcement, especially drawing attention to the increased drug and human trafficking crimes committed in the county.
Touting his collaborative leadership style, O’Hare said he will seek to surround himself with others “smarter than [he] is,” “praise others publicly for their work,” “spend more time listening than talking,” and set a vision for Tarrant County to be the “absolute best place to live, work, and raise a family.”
As someone who has launched two small businesses himself, O’Hare said he understands the importance of small businesses as the number one employer in the country and will work to make sure the county has a pro-business environment where companies want to come and create jobs.
O’Hare plans to increase mobility in the county by building and maintaining roads and working with the state and regional bodies to meet the needs of the ever-growing population.
Democrat Deborah Peoples was next to provide background and answer the chamber’s questions.
She started by praising the current leadership of Tarrant County during the COVID-19 pandemic for working together to focus on the residents’ safety and “keep the economic engine going.”
Peoples said she spent over three decades working in corporate America, and that she grew up in West Texas and wanted to settle in Tarrant County after she retired.
She plans to prioritize several policies if she is elected. She would work to continue economic development and job creation, she said, touting her previous corporate experience as an asset.
She also said she would prioritize the health, both physical and mental, of the community, including supporting John Peter Smith Hospital and the plans under its bond program.
Infrastructure and education were also among her top priorities.
When it comes to supporting small businesses, Peoples said she appreciates them from growing up in Odessa, where small businesses were the “lifeblood of the community.” She would focus resources for “incubators” to build future small businesses in Tarrant County. In addition, she praised the work of public/private partnerships to help small businesses, as well as American Rescue Plan Act funds that could assist them.
“I don’t ask anyone to do anything I won’t do myself,” Peoples said of her leadership style. She says she wants to empower those around her and surround herself with experts as she makes decisions.
Peoples praised current Republican Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley’s leadership in “setting an example for the community” by taking his COVID-19 vaccine publicly.
As part of preparing a skilled workforce in the county, Peoples would focus on education and work with superintendents to get a common vision for what is needed. “We need to raise critical thinkers,” she emphasized.
When it comes to the infrastructure needs of the county with a population of 2.1 million, Peoples said she would also work across the region because Tarrant County is part of the North Texas hub. She believes infrastructure needs must address “planes, trains, automobiles,” mass transportation, and data.
“We have to have a leader that understands how critical that is” and can “work across lines to bring a vision for the region to fruition,” she said. Peoples believes she is the candidate to accomplish that task.
Peoples recently touted her endorsement by pro-choice activist groups Annie’s List and Emily’s List in a press release.
“Annie’s List is proud to support Deborah Peoples, a progressive and proven community leader, in her race for Tarrant County Judge.”
She doesn’t have a list of endorsements on her campaign website.
O’Hare is endorsed by Texas Right to Life, former President Donald Trump, the Arlington Police Association, and business leader Ross Perot Jr among many local, state, and federal officials.
Early voting begins on October 24 with Election Day on November 8.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.