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Groups back Watts, others

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

After forums, firefighters association, Realtors issue endorsements

Some local endorsements came through this week for mayoral candidate Chris Watts and other Denton City Council candidates in the May 10 election.

The Denton Firefighters Association and the Greater Denton/Wise County Association of Realtors endorsed Watts and others in the election after holding open forums with the candidates and asking a series of questions on issues important to them before deciding whether to offer campaign contributions.

Watts, 53, an attorney and real estate investor and developer, picked up endorsements and $3,500 from the two groups — $3,000 from the real estate agents’ political action committee and $500 from the firefighters.

“I’m appreciative and humbled and honored for their support,” Watts said.

He is facing Jean Schaake, 70, a university administrator and chairwoman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, and Donna Woodfork, 44, a radio show host, in the May 10 election to replace outgoing Mayor Mark Burroughs. Three council seats are also on the ballot.

Michael Holdsclaw, a firefighter for the city and secretary of the firefighters association, said the group chose Watts not only for his answers at the forum, which was held Monday night, but also for the good working relationship they had with him when he served on the City Council.

The firefighters association has an agreement with the city to “meet and confer” each year to negotiate matters that affect the rank and file.

Barbara Russell, of the real estate association, said the group supports people who support private property rights. The Texas Association of Realtors Political Action Committee often makes some of the largest campaign contributions in local elections.

“The decisions they [local elected officials] make affect your private property rights,” Russell said.

Woodfork said she didn’t have a comment on either endorsement decision. Schaake said she was surprised.

“I remain strongly supportive of the firefighters association,” she said.

Place 6 endorsements

The firefighters and real estate group also endorsed real estate developer Greg Johnson, 45, for Place 6, even though he has no active opposition. Technology consultant Brendan Carroll, 44, filed for a place on the ballot and later withdrew from the race, but not in time for his name to be removed from the ballot.

Holdsclaw said the firefighters — about 15 members were off duty and able to participate in Monday night’s deliberations for endorsements — were impressed with Johnson’s answers to their questions.

The questions covered whether to support firefighters participating in the hiring of a new chief and whether to build a training facility, as well as probing the candidates’ understanding of the meet-and-confer agreement and the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the community.

The firefighters’ decision to endorse Johnson and offer a $500 campaign contribution was an effort to begin a working relationship with him, Holdsclaw said.

Johnson said the endorsement was humbling, knowing what firefighters do for a living.

“From everything I’ve heard, this endorsement means a lot in this town because these guys are so respected,” he said.

The Realtors’ backing comes with a $2,000 contribution toward his campaign, Johnson said.

“Being a commercial real estate broker, a lot of what they care about is near and dear to me, too, particularly private property rights,” he said.

No Place 5 endorsement

Neither the firefighters nor the real estate agents made an endorsement for Place 5, a race between two veteran campaigners.

Retired elementary principal Dalton Gregory, 62, who resigned his District 2 seat to run at-large, is squaring off against local businesswoman Hatice Salih, 56, who ran for City Council unsuccessfully in 2009 and 2010.

District 2 endorsement

Nor did the firefighters make any endorsements in the District 2 race, which has a pair of local businessmen, John Ryan, 48, and Glen Farris, 34, racing to replace Gregory.

The real estate agents endorsed Ryan, offering him a contribution of $2,000.

Ryan said he appreciates the support. He has worked a lot with them over the years in his business dealings, he said, adding, “but anyone who owns a home in town knows what a great group of people they are.”

Farris said that, knowing Ryan’s long history with local agents, their endorsement wasn’t unexpected.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.