In Tarrant, primary marked by ‘anti-incumbent sentiment’

Posted Thursday, Mar. 06, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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It was the end of an era Wednesday after two veteran local lawmakers on opposite ends of the political spectrum were swept out of office in this week’s primaries.

Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, and Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, are among more than a half-dozen legislators statewide who lost their posts.

“Tarrant County holds its reputation as being one of the most conservative urban counties in the state,” said Harvey Kronberg, editor and publisher of the Quorum Report, an Austin-based online political newsletter. “The anti-incumbent sentiment was manifest.”

Others who also lost, apparently caught up in that sentiment, include Reps. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell; Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving; George Lavender, R-Texarkana; Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell; and Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple; and Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas.

Still more are headed for runoffs.

The Republican battle for Senate District 10 continues as Konni Burton of Colleyville and former state Rep. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth — the two candidates with the most votes in a five-way race — head into a May 27 runoff.

Here’s a look at the local fallout from Tuesday’s primaries.

House District 90

Burnam, the dean of the Tarrant County delegation, who took office in 1997, said he knew winning another term would be tough.

“I’ve known all along it would be very close,” said Burnam, known as one of the most liberal members of the House. “The demographics of the district have changed very radically over the years.”

Burnam said that he was running for re-election “out of a sense of obligation” and that he’s ready to move on now that he has lost to Ramon Romero Jr. by 111 votes.

“I’ve got 10 more months in office to raise Cain as a state representative, and my wife and I have already started planning a vacation next February,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m going to take some time to think about what to do next. I have been running for office and serving for a quarter of a century and I’m a little tired.”

Romero said he’s excited about his victory in the primary, which means he will be the new representative — and the first minority representing the district — because he faces no other challengers in November.

“I had so many people … who were involved in making this happen,” Romero said. “Everybody worked weekends and on phone banks and prayed for me every single day. I’m honored, absolutely honored, not just by winning the office, but by the people who believe in me.”

First on his agenda, after he attended church Wednesday, was thanking all the people who helped him win.

After the results showed that he had won late Tuesday, Romero said, he spent about 25 minutes with his mother as she prayed. “I want to thank God for the will and the words,” he said.

House District 94

Patrick, a former schoolteacher and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington who took office in 2007, released a statement Wednesday about her loss.

“It has been an honor to serve my community and home of Arlington in public office for over 22 years,” she said. “Most importantly, I have been a strong advocate for Texas students, families, educators, public and higher education — as it is our most important investment and constitutional obligation.

“I am proud of our campaign as it stood on principle, a proven conservative record, and recognition of the need to responsibly invest in the future of Texas to ensure it is bright for future generations,” she said. “I chose to be honest with voters, remaining true to what I believe the people of Texas want and deserve — pragmatic leaders who understand the challenges we face in the 21st century.”

Tony Tinderholt, a former military man who won this Republican primary by nearly 1,500 votes, tipped his hat to Patrick.

“I want to make sure everyone remembers the 22 years of political service Diane gave after she was done teaching,” he said. “She and her family really did a lot.

“I wasn’t happy with her conservative voting record lately, but she has done a lot of good things and I don’t want people to forget that.”

Tinderholt said he and his wife will take a few days off. After that, it’s back to the campaign trail.

Tinderholt faces Democrat Cole Ballweg and Libertarian Robert Harris in the Nov. 4 general election

Senate District 10

One of the hottest elections statewide — the effort to replace state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, in the Texas Senate — is still going.

Burton, a longtime leader in the NE Tarrant Tea Party, and Shelton drew the most votes in the primary. Because no one reached 50 percent, the two will face each other in a runoff.

Burton, who claimed 43 percent of the vote, said she will continue to deliver her message through block walking, social media, mailers and TV ads.

“I am standing for limited government, personal responsibility, the rule of law, free market,” she said. “That’s what people want, particularly in this district.”

Shelton, a pediatrician who lost a bid for this seat in 2012 to Davis, drew 35 percent of the vote.

“We are gearing up right now,” said Shelton, who added that he is the proven conservative leader in this race. “It’s a whole new campaign.”

In the Nov. 7 general election, the runoff winner will face Democrat Libby Willis, Green Party candidate John Tunmire, and either Gene Lord or Gene M. Woodard III, representing the Libertarian Party of Texas.

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

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