Who would run for Senate 10 if Davis seeks higher office?

Posted Monday, Sep. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Wendy Davis has yet to announce her political plans, but a race to replace her in the Texas Senate — if she chooses to run for Texas governor — could boil down to a battle of Tarrant County heavyweights.

Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and former Fort Worth Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks are among the names being bandied about as potential Democratic candidates.

As for Republicans, political observers say they expect more than the four already declared candidates — Konni Burton, Mark Shelton, Mark Skinner and Tony Pompa — to jump into the race whether or not Davis, D-Fort Worth, is in it.

“If Davis runs for governor, SD-10 would remain as one of the state’s two marquee legislative races [along with Congressional District 23],” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. “If Davis runs for re-election, this will be the most closely watched of the 218 federal and state legislative races in Texas, and probably the most extensively covered state legislative race in the country.

“This will be a big race for Texas, not just Tarrant County.”

Texas Senate District 10 — which includes Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield, Colleyville and other areas of south and Northeast Tarrant County — has seen demographic changes in recent years that appear to leave the district up for grabs by either party.

In this district, Davis unseated longtime GOP state Sen. Kim Brimer of Arlington in 2008 with 49.91 percent of the vote. Last year, she fended off a challenge by then-state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, drawing 51.12 percent.

Davis has said she will run for re-election, but after drawing nationwide attention this summer for a more than 11-hour filibuster that temporarily derailed an abortion bill, she has been encouraged by Democrats to try to lead their party back into power.

She recently delayed any announcement about her future political plans likely until late September because her father has been in the hospital in critical condition. Candidates may start filing for office on the 2014 primary ballot Nov. 9.

Here’s a look at some of the candidates being talked about for the race, if Davis seeks higher office.

Democrats

Joel Burns: The openly gay Fort Worth city councilman drew national attention three years ago after giving a moving speech during a council meeting encouraging teens struggling with being gay to stay strong because “life will get so, so, so much better.”

Some say he would be the Democrat to beat because of his name ID and ability to raise money, especially since some of the political machinery behind Davis would line up behind Burns as well. That would include the Democratic Lone Star Project, a federal political action committee led by Matt Angle, a Democratic political consultant and brother to Burns’ partner, J.D. Angle.

Burns said he hasn’t decided whether to join the race if Davis runs for a higher office.

Much of his attention is focused right now on the city budget and bond project, along with family issues. But a number of people have talked to him about the possibility of running for the District 10 Senate seat if Davis, his friend, runs for governor.

“It’s something I’ve thought about because a number of people have asked me about it,” Burns said. “Right now, I have no plans because there’s no opening, no vacancy.

“If one becomes open, I’ll think about it then,” he said. “It’s something I would take very serious. I would not run unless I saw a path to victory, and I haven’t had the time yet to assess that.”

Nicole Collier: The first-term state representative of District 95 said she’s not in the race. “I really enjoyed the work I did this past session in the House ... and there is so much work that still needs to be done,” she said. “I want to continue that. I will seek re-election for House District 95.”

Sergio De Leon: The first-term Precinct 5 j ustice of the peace said he’s not in the race. He will seek re-election as JP. “Should Sen. Davis run for governor, and City Councilman Burns enter the race for state Senate, I believe others considering a bid will opt not to file against Joel because of fundraising ability and high name identification,” he said.

Sal Espino: A Fort Worth city councilman since 2005, Espino‘s name has been brought up in conversations about potential candidates. He initially was considered by some as a potential candidate for last year’s 33rd Congressional District race but chose not to run. He didn’t return a call to the Star-Telegram for comment.

Kathleen Hicks: A former Fort Worth city councilwoman, Hicks also has been mentioned as a potential candidate. She didn’t return a call to the Star-Telegram for comment. Last year, Hicks resigned her council post to unsuccessfully run for the 33rd congressional district. She was unsuccessful in a bid to reclaim her previous council seat.

Terri Moore: Moore is a veteran trial lawyer, former federal prosecutor and former prosecutor in both Tarrant and Dallas counties. Her name has been brought up as a potential candidate for the seat. Moore, who didn’t return a call to the Star-Telegram for comment, twice unsuccessfully tried to unseat longtime Tarrant County District Attorney Tim Curry before his death.

Chris Turner: The Democratic state representative from Grand Prairie was named to the No. 2 spot in the House Democratic leadership earlier this year, being elected chairman of the Democratic House Caucus, which helps shape Democratic policy in the GOP-led House of Representatives. “It’s very flattering to be mentioned, but I’m running for re-election to the state House,” he said. “I definitely am not a candidate for the Senate.”

Republicans

Konni Burton: The Colleyville woman 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.

She said she was approached by many people who suggested she consider running in Senate District 10. “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 said.

Toby Goodman: A former Republican state representative who served in the Texas House from 1991 to 2007, the Arlington man considered running to replace retiring state Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, in last year’s election. He ultimately stayed out of the race and has told the media he plans to stay out of this race as well.

Dee Kelly Jr.: A prominent Fort Worth lawyer who has has a long history in the community and has served on various community boards has been mentioned in the past as a potential challenger to Davis. He has considered bids for the state Senate in the past but declined to pursue them. “I’m not inclined to get involved personally,” said Kelly, a managing partner at the Kelly Hart & Hallman L.L.P. that his father helped found in 1979. “I’m pretty committed to not do that.”

Bill Meadows: A former Fort Worth city councilman who has been involved in local politics for more than 20 years, Meadows wrapped up serving on the Texas Transportation Commission earlier this year. He said he has spent much of the past 15 years in Austin and is ready for a breather.

“It would take something extraordinary for me to have an interest in it, beginning first with Wendy not wanting it,” he said. “I never say never, but I’m inclined not to.”

Tony Pompa: An Arlington school board member, he said he decided to run for this seat while serving on the school board’s Legislative Action Committee. He also said he believes Davis doesn’t represent the values of the district.

“I firmly believe Senate District 10 is a conservative, Republican district. I am a conservative Republican,” Pompa, founder and CEO of General Assembly, a nationwide merchandising business in Arlington, has said. “We value limited government and taxes — personal responsibility. Those are the things I don’t think Sen. Davis represents.”

Mark Shelton: A Fort Worth pediatrician and former state representative from Fort Worth, Shelton has unsuccessfully gone head-to-head with Davis before. Last November, he lost to Davis by less than 3 percentage points. He has said he is ready to run for this race again.

“I am a Republican and a conservative,” Shelton has said. “I am running on the fact that we need to improve the economy and jobs, education ... and we need to preserve tort reform.”

Mark Skinner: The Colleyville man has served on the Colleyville City Council, owns Skinner Commercial Realty & Associates and is a founding partner in 3R Realty Ventures. Active in his community and his church, Skinner has said he is in this race to make a difference.

He “can offer the Republican Party the best possible candidacy in the upcoming general election in 2014,” according to his website. “Combining his extensive business experience, the capacity to quickly comprehend complex issues, and his ability to relate to people of all social or economic levels will bring a new and exciting energy to Tarrant County leadership in Austin.”

Victor Vandergriff: An Arlington businessman, Vandergriff this year began a six-year term on the Texas Transportation Commission that ends in 2019. He has served on several other state boards and agencies and has been one of several names mentioned for a variety of political posts.

“At this point, I’ll wait and see what Sen. Davis does,” he said, adding that his focus recently is on various transportation proposals such as those to turn some paved roads into gravel roads. “I never say never to anything.

“I appreciate the great privilege it would be to serve in the state Senate. I think a lot of good things could be done there,” he said. “I think a lot of people will be looking at the position.”

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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