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Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, the only Republican helming one of Texas’ largest five cities, criticized the current state of the GOP and its intraparty battles Wednesday.
“I could not run in a Republican primary because I just couldn't look myself in the mirror and do it,” Parker said during an event with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith.
Parker’s remarks came weeks after her predecessor Betsy Price, who Parker worked for as chief of staff, lost her Republican primary bid for Tarrant County judge. Price lost the contentious primary to Tim O’Hare, a Southlake attorney and former mayor of Farmers Branch who drew the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.
That baffled Parker, who identifies as a Republican but makes regular appeals to bipartisanship. In Texas, municipal races are not partisan.
“I'm so confused,” Parker said. “We just eat our own.”
Parker oversees one of the fastest-growing cities in Texas — and certainly the most conservative of the state’s major urban cores. But it’s gotten more purple in recent years. Four years after Tarrant County went for Trump, a majority of voters there cast their ballots for Joe Biden in 2020.
Parker, one of the youngest mayors in the country at 38 years old, has been known to buck her party from time to time. She’s particularly an outlier when it comes to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — which Texas Republicans have staunchly resisted.
“I can tell you that right now, in the state of Texas, in Fort Worth, you have families that are without health insurance simply because we have not expanded Medicaid,” Parker said. “And there has not been an alternative presented in the state of Texas to replace Medicaid expansion.”
Parker sat down Wednesday for a wide-ranging conservation with Smith at Texas Christian University — touching on her city’s rampant growth, high homicide rate and other hot topics.
Here are some of the highlights:
Fort Worth hasn’t been immune to the nationwide trend of rising homicides during the pandemic. The North Texas city notched the second-highest number of homicides — 118 — in its history in the last year, though its homicide rate is lower than in years past, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A rise in domestic violence was a “huge” contributing factor to the jump in homicides, Parker said.
Fort Worth, which has more than 1,500 police officers, could use more officers to beat back crime, Parker said — though she acknowledged hiring more officers is “not the only way to solve the problem.”
“If you take a big step back — and I've talked about this a lot and Neil and I have had a lot of heart-to-hearts about this — does policing in America need to change and has it started to change? Absolutely, yes,” Parker said. “But you cannot make change if you aren't pro-police and pro-community at the same time.”
“I'm worried right now that you're targeting families that are already incredibly vulnerable and in a really difficult circumstance, when there are so many other hundreds of thousands of kids and families that are in dangerous positions with no regard for the subject of transgender,” Parker said.
But with growth comes the challenge of maintaining the city’s character and affordability without totally stifling change. Parker, a University of Texas at Austin alum, said she has kept an eye on Austin’s rampant transformation, skyrocketing housing costs and total overhaul of some neighborhoods — and she doesn’t want to see that happen in Fort Worth.
“All of these neighborhoods have loud beautiful voices that are telling you what they want for their city,” Parker said. “It's not ‘no progress,’ but it is very unique and the same thing won't go in one neighborhood or the other.”
“We want to preserve our corridors and our neighborhoods as much as possible,” Parker said.
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