Tarrant County’s longtime district clerk says he will endorse state Rep. Jonathan Stickland’s re-election bid, citing the absence of Stickland's opponent — former high school principal Andy Cargile — from a major candidate forum in Hurst on Saturday.
Last week, Tom Wilder said he was still weighing his choice in the House District 92 race. But on Monday, he said he would back Stickland, R-Bedford, largely because Cargile did not show up at the Tarrant County Candidate Fair, a well-attended forum and straw poll hosted by several Republican groups.
“This was a monster event,” Wilder said. “It was right in Cargile’s backyard — it’s where he lives, and there was no excuse for him not to show up.”
According to the forum’s organizers, 76 of 87 opposed local and statewide candidates agreed to attend ahead of the event.
Wilder said the event would have given Cargile a “huge opportunity” to greet a line of potential voters at the event, which does not allow candidates to give speeches but lets them sit at booths and interact with the public.
“I don’t know where anyone else could have been but at that event,” Wilder said. “It was almost insulting that he would not show up.”
Cargile’s campaign said it spent the weekend canvasing surefire constituents, rather than focusing on a forum whose crowd spanned Tarrant County’s 11 House districts.
“We just thought it would be more beneficial to be knocking on doors and making phone calls with voters in our district,” said Becky Cowan, Cargile’s campaign manager.
Stickland easily defeated Cargile in the event’s straw poll, taking nearly 85 percent of the vote. Cowan said those results do not mean much because they include many voters from outside the district.
In an increasingly contentious race, the candidates may meet soon. Last week, Cargile accepted Stickland’s challenge to face off in a debate. Cowan said the campaigns are still ironing out the details.