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Texas Senate 10: The race to watch

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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It has been billed as the race to watch next year.

But as the battle ramps up for Texas Senate District 10 — which is expected to be one of the most costly and expensive races in the state — the question is who will be on the ballot.

Already, five Republicans have jumped into the race, hoping to reclaim the post their party lost in 2008 when Democrat Wendy Davis wrested it away from then-state Sen. Kim Brimer of Arlington.

No Democrat has declared plans to seek the post, but several have been considering it since Davis announced she will run for governor and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, a perceived front-runner, decided he wouldn’t run.

“It makes a difference who they nominate because this is a very, very marginal district,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU.

Among those weighing their options: former City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, former state Rep. Glenn Lewis, businessman Mike Martinez and community activist Libby Willis. Fort Worth school Trustee Tobi Jackson said she is considering a bid, but declined to say for which party.

“We would like to have one candidate, but this is a democratic process … and we have no dearth of quality candidates,” said Deborah Peoples, who heads the Tarrant County Democratic Party. “The Republican Party already has [five] people who have stepped up to run, and I think that’s going to be a very interesting and vigorous race.”

Republicans remain confident that no matter which Democrat runs for the post, 2014 will be the year they reclaim Senate 10.

“We just know that it’s a Republican district,” said Jen Hall, who leads the Tarrant County GOP. “Sen. Davis ran a very good campaign … and we felt it was ours to lose and we did. Now we are very motivated to get that seat back.”

Filing for next year’s primary begins Saturday.

Up for grabs

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 can convince some GOP voters to cross over for this race, said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

Past races for this seat have drawn statewide attention, financing and endorsements.

Davis unseated Brimer for the post in 2008 with 49.91 percent of the vote. Then last year, as Republican officials statewide got involved to help reclaim the seat for their party, she fended off a challenge by then-state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, claiming 51.12 percent.

Observers say the district could go either way.

“Of the 16 Senate seats being renewed, 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,” Jones said.

On the fence

Here’s a look at some of the candidates considering a bid for the Senate 10 seat:

Kathleen Hicks: A former Fort Worth city councilwoman, Hicks served on the council from 2005 until 2012, and as a council aide for years before that. She resigned her city post last year to make a bid for a newly drawn 33rd congressional district that was ultimately claimed by Marc Veasey. The well-known Democrat and community activist was unsuccessful in a bid to reclaim her previous council seat. “A number of people from across the district continue to urge me to run for Senate District 10,” she said. “I have not ruled it out.”

Tobi Jackson: Jackson has served on the school board for more than three years and said she has been approached by people who live in Senate District 10 who asked her to run for the post. She said she’s not prepared to discuss which party she might run under, if she chooses to run, because she currently serves in a nonpartisan post. “I am honored to be approached, and I am giving it thoughtful and deliberate consideration,” she said. “It is on the table …but I am a very happy board trustee representing District 2.”

Glenn Lewis: The Fort Worth attorney and former five-term lawmaker said he is considering making a bid for the seat. Lewis, who was ousted from the House seat he represented by Veasey in 2004, drew criticism at the time for working with both parties. “Most of the comments I’ve gotten from some people are that someone with moderate credentials is the best option the Democrats have here,” he said. “I’m just trying to mull it all over because life is pretty good for Glenn Lewis right now … but in my whole life, I have never refused a call for service.”

Mike Martinez: The energy executive said he received calls from people who have encouraged him to run. The Democrat last sought public office in 1998, when he ran for the Tarrant County Commissioners Court but dropped out after being arrested twice on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He said he was twice convicted of DWI. “I started thinking about it, looking at the numbers, and looking at my true and sincere desire to serve my community,” he said. “I know my past will come up. It’s not about that. That is not who I am, that is not what I am about. I finally grew up and became the man I am today.”

Libby Willis: The Democrat and former president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods — who has been active in historic preservation, community revitalization and city issues for years — is weighing a possible bid. She is the daughter-in-law of the late Doyle Willis, who represented Fort Worth in the House and Senate for decades. “People have definitely been talking to me,” she said. “The phone keeps ringing. I am really, really seriously considering it. … I’ve been looking for a place to serve for a while.”

Republicans running

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 levels. 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.

Jon Schweitzer: The Colleyville chiropractor posted a note on Facebook recently announcing that he is running as a Republican for this seat. “It’s time conservative Republicans take action,” according to his note. “As a doctor and small business owner I’ve been on the front line. It’s time to take action and turn the tide.”

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.

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

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