To replace Wendy Davis, should Democrats look to a moderate?

Posted Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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kennedy Ten years ago, Texas Democrats bashed then-state Rep. Glenn Lewis as too centrist and independent.

Now, that’s exactly what some Democrats want in a candidate for the open seat left by state Sen. Wendy Davis.

“People are telling me it’ll take somebody with crossover appeal to independent voters,” said Lewis, a Fort Worth lawyer, former five-term lawmaker and current chairman of the Texas Southern University board of regents.

He laughed.

“I guess they finally got all the way down the list and called me.”

Lewis, a moderate Democrat and a former House committee chairman under Republican Speaker Tom Craddick, said he won’t make up his mind about running until the Dec. 9 filing deadline.

At 59, he hasn’t won an election since 2002.

But so far, he’s one of few Democrats even talking about running for Davis’ seat after Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns bowed out of consideration last week.

Ironically, Lewis is now in demand for the same reason he was ousted by now-U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey.

Back then, Lewis was accused of playing the middle, like when he was a nose tackle for the Dunbar High School Wildcats.

When House Democrats made their storied 2003 quorum break to Oklahoma, he didn’t go, although he stayed away from Austin.

When he lost the next primary, state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, said the House had lost an “independent thinker.”

He said then, “The message is that the Democrats in Texas have rejected bipartisanship.”

Now, in a true swing district against whichever Republican emerges from the Tea Party kiln, bipartisanship and his work with both sides as a partner in the Austin-based Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson tax collection law firm might be advantages.

Energy executive Mike Martinez and Libby Willis, from the family of the late former state Sen. Doyle Willis, have also said they’re considering the race. On the Republican side, former nominee Mark Shelton of Fort Worth is running along with school Trustee Tony Pompa of Arlington and Konni Burton and Mark Skinner of Colleyville.

“I think it’s time campaigns got back to serious public policy and issues,” Lewis said Friday by phone.

“It’s gotten so ridiculous. Just because somebody doesn’t agree with me, that doesn’t make them an evil person.”

As a state university regent, he’s seen Texas pull back from higher education funding, like at the University of Texas at Arlington.

“I know how much the state invests in higher eduction, and I also know how much that has gone down,” he said.

“Gov. Perry wants universities to have a $10,000 degree. Well, we can do a $10 degree if they make us. But would it be worth the $10?”

The more he talked, the more it sounded like a campaign.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy

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