Joel Burns opts out of Texas Senate race

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has decided not to get in the race to replace Wendy Davis in representing Texas Senate District 10.

Several Republicans have already announced that they will run for the seat, but Burns, who had been considered a potential Democratic front-runner in the race, released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he wants to continue working on city issues instead.

“After many weeks of thought and consideration, my next steps have became very clear to me,” said Burns, the council’s first openly gay member, in an email to supporters. “And I want to share with you — my many friends, neighbors and supporters — my decision: Quite simply, the job I most want is the one I already have.”

The race for District 10 is expected to be one of the most watched and most expensive legislative races on the ballot next year.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, announced earlier this month that she would not seek re-election to her state Senate seat to instead make a bid to become the first Democratic governor since Ann Richards left office in 1995.

At least four Republicans jumped into the race earlier this year, when they believed Davis would seek re-election: Konni Burton, Mark Shelton, Mark Skinner and Tony Pompa.

Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples couldn’t be reached for comment on Burns’ announcement.

Tarrant County Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Hall said she’s now curious who will be the leading Democratic candidate.

“I didn’t really see Joel as a threat,” Hall said. “I don’t think the whole Senate district knows who he is.”

Analysts say they expect more candidates from both parties to jump into what will become one of the most expensive and most watched political battles for a legislative seat in 2014.

“It is the only one where there exists any real doubt as to which party will represent it when the Texas Legislature reconvenes in January of 2015,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

“Of the 203 Texas federal and state legislative contests on November 4, 2014, the SD-10 race is likely to be the most dramatic in terms of both the uncertainty surrounding the outcome and the political importance of the result.”

‘Incredible honor’

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.

“The district leans Republican but is in reach for a Democrat who is able to convince a small share of otherwise Republican voters to cross over in the Senate race,” Jones said. “At present I would categorize this race as a pure toss-up, with neither party having a notable advantage.”

Races for this seat have drawn statewide attention and financing since Davis first bested incumbent GOP state Sen. Kim Brimer of Arlington to claim the post in 2008.

In 2012, Republicans statewide worked to help reclaim the seat for their party as Democrats backed Davis in her re-election bid against then-state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth. Even though top Republicans endorsed Shelton in the race, Davis won re-election with 51.12 percent of the vote.

Burns, who has represented City Council District 9 since 2008, drew national attention three years ago after giving a speech during a council meeting meeting encouraging teens struggling with being gay to stay strong because “life will get so, so, so much better.”

Burns said he talked to many people who had encouraged him to consider running for the Senate seat.

“The mere prospect of serving in the Texas Senate is an incredible honor,” he said in his email. “And I am humbled that so many of you have entertained the prospect with me.

“We still have much work to do in solving our own City’s transportation shortcomings, insuring we grow our tax base, and making sure we provide the best public safety and city services to our citizens while balancing our City budget.”

‘Supporting role’

Many had thought Burns would be the Democratic Party’s front runner because of his name ID as well as the Democratic machinery that would be behind him — including his partner, J.D. Angle, a longtime political consultant helping with the Davis campaign, and the Democratic Lone Star Project, a federal political action committee led by Matt Angle, a Democratic political consultant.

Burns said he wants to help find the best person to represent the Senate district.

“I know a thing or two about following in the footsteps of the brave, smart Ms. Davis, who preceded me as Fort Worth's District 9 council member,” he said. “Whoever succeeds Wendy in the Texas Senate has their work cut out for them.

“And though I am not running, I remain committed to my fellow Senate District 10 residents and will work exhaustively to find, support and elect a credible, qualified next State Senator for Fort Worth and Tarrant County who will serve in the tradition of Wendy Davis,” he said. “We deserve no less.”

Republicans in the race

Republicans who have said they are in the race include:

Konni Burton: The Colleyville woman has been active in numerous political campaigns and grassroots politics at the local, state and national level. Discouraged by election results last November, she stepped down from her leadership responsibilities, which included the vice presidency of the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, to determine what she should do next. She decided running for Senate District 10 was what she needed to do.

Tony Pompa: An Arlington school trustee, Pompa said he decided to run for this seat while serving on the school board’s Legislative Action Committee. He has said Davis doesn’t represent the values of the district and that he’s the conservative Republican who could best do that.

Mark Shelton: A Fort Worth pediatrician and former state representative from Fort Worth, Shelton unsuccessfully went head to head with Davis in 2012, losing by less than 3 percentage points. He said he is ready to run for this seat again and believes he’s the conservative Republican to best represent the district..

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 and bring new energy to Tarrant County leadership in Austin.

No Democrat has announced candidacy for this race. Filing for next year’s primary begins Nov. 9.

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

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