FORT WORTH — The race for Texas Senate District 10 is heating up nearly a year before voters can begin casting ballots in the race.Already, two Republicans have announced they will seek the post and try to unseat incumbent state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, a rising star in the state Democratic Party who has won the last two contentious bids to represent the district.One is former state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, who unsuccessfully challenged Davis for the job last year.The other is Konni Burton, a longtime leader within the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party and her community.Both Shelton and Burton say they believe the district — which includes Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield, Colleyville and other areas of south and Northeast Tarrant County — needs new leadership.“It’s still early in the campaign, but it’s shaping up to be another interesting election,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.Davis, a former Fort Worth city councilwoman, was re-elected last year to the Senate district she has represented since 2008.Earlier this year, she drew a two-year term, rather than a four-year term, and Republicans vowed to make the race a key priority. Democrats meanwhile promised to again help the woman they believe could soon be a successful statewide candidate.“We 100 percent stand behind her,” said Tanene Allison, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party. “We think she’s a great senator and has shown great leadership. We think she will be re-elected.“It’s telling that people are lining up against her so early,” she said. “She’s a leader ... and they want to take her on and they have to line up support early on.”Davis, who has indicated she will seek re-election next year rather than seek a statewide post, declined to comment Wednesday on the challengers who will run against her.Deja vuShelton challenged Davis for the post last year and the race quickly became the the most watched, the nastiest and the most expensive legislative battle in Texas.The race was riddled with accusations, ethics challenges and more as Republicans statewide — including many of Davis’ current Senate colleagues — lined up behind Shelton with the goal of retaking a seat Davis wrested from the GOP in 2008.That year, Davis unseated longtime Republican state Sen. Kim Brimer of Arlington for the post, claiming 49.91 percent of the vote to Brimer’s 47.52 percent and Libertarian Richard A. Cross’s 2.56 percent, election records show.Then last year, she drew 51.12 percent of the vote to Shelton’s 48.87 percent to win her re-election bid.“I am a Republican and a conservative,” Shelton said Wednesday. “I am running on the fact that we need to improve the economy and jobs, education ... and we need to preserve tort reform.”Shelton is a married doctor and father of four who works at a children’s hospital treating, as he has said, “the sickest of the sick.”Shelton said he is already reaching out to line up support for his election bid.“We are geared up and running,” he said.New challengerBurton, of Colleyville, has been active in countless political campaigns and grassroots politics at the local, state and national level.After last November’s general election, Burton said she was discouraged with the results. So she stepped down from her leadership responsibilities — which included serving as vice president for the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party — to determine what she should do next.“After the election, it was of course very disappointing to me,” she said. “When Sen. Davis drew the two year straw, I started actively looking for someone to run against her.“I was approached by others, state representatives and grassroots conservatives, who asked me to think about doing it,” she said. “My immediate answer was no, but the more I thought about it and talked about it, it was what I needed to do.”She has already drawn the support and endorsement of officials ranging from state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, to Grassroots America Executive Director JoAnn Fleming.“Konni Burton is one of the strongest conservative leaders in Tarrant County,” Stickland said. “She’s a fiscal and social conservative who can articulate our values in a way very few can.” Staff writer Dave Montgomery contributed to this report.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley