The luck of the draw landed a legendary metalhead’s name in the top spot of Arlington’s election ballot. And soon, he’d need all the luck he could get.
Since he first entered the city’s mayoral race, it’s been a wild ride for Jerry Warden, 60, best known locally as the godfather of metal from his time in the band Warlock.
Warden says he’d planned to withdraw from the May 1 election last week after another candidate threatened to sue if he didn’t, claiming Warden was ineligible to run because he's a convicted sex offender. He served 15 years after "being convicted in 1996 on charges of kidnapping and sexually abusing a 24-year-old woman," according to The Dallas Morning News. Warden's name and photo are the Department of Public Safety's sex offender registry.
“This Jim Ross dude, he has been all over me,” Warden says of his opponent. “But that doesn’t mean shit. Let’s be honest. What really means something is that he thinks that I can take votes away from him at the ballot box.
“Big Boss Ross, that’s what I call him,” he continues, noting the attorney’s large stature. While eight candidates are running for Arlington mayor, only Ross has thrown shade at him, he says.
Kelly Coleman, Warden’s girlfriend, recalls how they’d barely walked through the doors at City Hall to get Warden’s name into the drawing for ballot placement when Ross tried to call Warden aside.
“That’s how we met him,” she says.
Ross denies that he wagged his finger, but he does believe that Warden has no right to run for office because of the felony conviction.
“We’ve come just shy of suing Mr. Warden, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to do it because there’s not enough time between now and the election,” Ross says. “I’m trying to get him off the ballot. He is not eligible and should not be on this ballot.”
Ross, a former Arlington police officer and Marine who’s endorsed by several police associations, current Mayor Jeff Williams and the Arlington Professional Firefighter’s Association, filed a complaint with the City Secretary’s Office to have Warden ousted from the race. When that didn’t happen, he complained to the Ethics Commission, then threatened litigation through another attorney.
When Warden tried to drop out of the election on Monday, he says he was told that the deadline to quit the race had passed. He now says he knew that serving 15 years in prison wouldn’t help him during the election, but he never dreamed someone would try to legally run him out of the race.
“It’s very hurtful for me,” he says. “I mean, what am I supposed to do? Just go ahead and kill myself? Say fuck it?”
Wearing a black, metal-studded hat, long hair and beard while sporting a new pair of splatter shoes, Warden says he was born in Arlington Memorial Hospital and remembers living with his grandparents, who’d moved to Arlington during the Depression.
He also recalls running a metal club “in the bottoms” while in his early 20s.
“Rascals was crazy,” he says of the place. “Any story you’d tell about Rascals seemed like an exaggeration.”
These days, Warden runs Elmo Jones Productions, which he named after his grandfather. (“I’m good at this,” he says of his job as a talent buyer.) Warden says he loves Arlington, but he’d like to see some changes.
“We need police reform,” he says, and he’d also like to have an annual Arlington metal fest.
Whether or not he wins the election, Warden says he’ll continue to fight for a yearly metal fest at Levitt Pavilion, and he doesn’t intend to accomplish the goal by “palling up with Jim Ross.”
“I want one measly night for Arlington metal fest,” he says. “I think we deserve that.”
Mainly, Warden just wants “a voice at the table,” he says, while joking that at this stage in his life there’s not a lot to lose and the worst that could happen is that he and Coleman might retire early in Colorado. He completely understands the negative impact of his past, he says, but if people don’t want him, they can simply say so at the ballot box.
Ross, whose law firm boasts official partnerships with the Texas Rangers and Texas Live! among others, has a different opinion.
“Then I’ll sue to declare that he is ineligible,” he says at the prospect of Warden winning the majority of the vote.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.