Davis, Hancock draw short terms in Texas Senate races

Posted Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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AUSTIN -- State Sen. Wendy Davis, who won a hard-fought re-election bid in November, faces the prospect of defending her Tarrant County seat again in 2014 after drawing a two-year term Wednesday.

The second-term Democrat immediately set her sights on another re-election race. State Republicans celebrated what they called the luck of the draw and vowed to make the race a top priority in 2014.

"We danced a jig," said state GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri, describing the buoyant mood among Republicans after they learned that Davis had drawn an abbreviated term.

Former Rep. Mark Shelton, the Fort Worth Republican who challenged Davis last year, described the drawing as "a great opportunity" and indicated that he would be interested in a rematch.

"That would be a fair assumption," Shelton said.

But he stopped short of saying he will definitely challenge Davis, saying, "I think I've said enough for today."

Freshman Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, a former state representative elected to the Senate in November, also drew a two-year term.

The two other senators who represent parts of Tarrant County -- Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury -- drew four-year terms.

The drawing is a constitutionally mandated Senate ritual that occurs after the once-a-decade redistricting, when all 31 senators start in newly drawn districts.

Davis and Hancock signaled their intentions to seek re-election, although Davis has also been mentioned as a potential contender for a statewide office, including governor.

"Obviously I was disappointed but will happily run again on the issues that I know are of concern to the district that I represent," Davis said.

Hancock said: "We look forward to working with constituents. We're pleased with the draw."

All senators had to go to the front of the Senate chamber and draw an envelope with a slip of paper.

Patsy Spaw, the secretary of the Senate, then announced whether they had drawn an odd number, for a four-year term, or an even number, for a two-year term.

Hancock, who entered the Legislature in 2007, won the GOP primary and the general election last year to succeed longtime Republican Sen. Chris Harris.

Former Rep. Todd Smith of Euless, whom Hancock defeated with 65 percent of the vote in the primary, said he is enjoying practicing law and has "no current plans to ever again run for public office."

But he added: "I am not yet 50 years old, so I suppose anything is possible, and I have learned to never to say never about anything."

Pete Martinez, Hancock's Democratic opponent in the general election, could not be reached for comment. Hancock won with 58.3 percent, while Martinez had 38.2 percent and Libertarian Dave "Mac" McElwee had 3.4 percent.

The District 10 Senate contest between Davis and Shelton was one of the state's hottest races last year, with the two candidates spending more $5 million.

Republicans, led by Gov. Rick Perry, rallied behind Shelton to try to oust Davis from the district she won in 2008 by defeating GOP incumbent Kim Brimer.

Democrats, in turn, waged a unified campaign for Davis to help push her to a 51-49 percent victory.

Davis' victory heightened her image as a potential statewide candidate.

She hinted Wednesday that a statewide race is still possible, telling reporters: "To have a two-year vs. a four-year [term] doesn't foreclose any options for me."

When asked whether she would consider a statewide run in 2014, Davis said that "my focus is being re-elected to my Senate seat."

"My priorities will continue to be what they've been -- public ed, supporting and growing our economy, hoping to provide a better healthcare system for the people I represent. And whether I have a two-year or four-year term, those priorities don't change."

Davis indicated that she will begin gearing up for the campaign immediately after the Legislature adjourns May 27. "I'll focus for now on my policy work, but obviously, as soon as the session is over, we'll have to shift our focus.

Munisteri said Republicans are euphoric about getting an early shot at Davis and predicted that they may have a stronger chance at victory in a year with no presidential election.

"I was just ecstatic she drew the two-year" term, Munisteri said. "That seat's going to be our No. 1 priority. It's one of the few seats where the base vote is Republican."

J.D. Angle of Fort Worth, Davis' consultant, disputed Munisteri, saying Davis will be strongly favored to win re-election in a district that he said is increasingly Democratic. "Sen. Davis has proven herself to be one of the most capable officials and candidates in the state," he said.

"I know for a fact that she plans to run for re-election in District 10," Angle said.

But he added that Davis "certainly has that option" of making a statewide run.

Jim Riddlesperger, a political analyst at TCU, said Davis may feel pressure from supporters to run statewide.

"She may choose to run for Senate, or she may choose to roll the dice and go for a bigger office since she's going to be running anyway," Riddlesperger said.

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau chief.

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Twitter: @daveymontgomery

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