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Burnam challenges loss in Democratic primary

Posted Monday, Mar. 24, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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State Rep. Lon Burnam filed a lawsuit Monday challenging his 111-vote primary election loss earlier this month.

Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said the goal of the lawsuit is to review data from the Texas House District 90 election “to determine if there were hundreds of illegally cast ballots.”

“I believe I have no choice after receiving multiple reports of an illegal computerized-signature vote-by-mail operation run to benefit my opponent,” Burnam said in a statement. “This operation appears to have clearly violated state law.”

Local businessman Ramon Romero Jr. won the race for the House seat, besting Burnam — dean of the Tarrant County delegation — earlier this month, local election records show.

Romero, who has served on several city commissions and lost a bid to represent District 8 on the Fort Worth City Council in 2012, could not be reached for comment late Monday.

“I now realize that Lon can’t get over the fact that we won fair and square,” Romero’s campaign manager, Michael “Mike” Valdez, said in a text message. “Once we win in court, it will validate the great campaign we ran and our win even more.”

In a lawsuit styled Lon Burnam v. Ramon Romero, Burnam noted that nearly 1,000 of the 5,078 votes cast in this race were absentee mail-in ballots — which could have been a deciding factor.

On Election Night, the race for this seat was close, sometimes only separated by a handful of votes. When the final count was released, Romero pulled ahead by 111 votes to claim victory.

“I have received reports from voters in the district who say they were approached at their door by campaign workers of unclear affiliation who asked them to fill out a vote-by-mail application on an electronic tablet device such as an iPad,” Burnam said in his statement.

“Texas law clearly does not allow the practice of filling out vote-by-mail ballot applications electronically, which the Texas Secretary of State’s has confirmed. Other questionable practices about this operation aside, this renders the entire operation illegal.”

‘Play by the rules’

Burnam, who took office in 1997, said he wants to review documents from the county clerk’s office and “from those involved in this operation.”

“I believe that these documents and other testimony will establish beyond question that the computerized-signature operation was illegal and that I won the election,” he said. “Part of my goal with this lawsuit is to root out these illegal operations before they become entrenched. Everyone, candidates and consultants, must play by the rules.

“Otherwise, they make a sham of the democratic process, and I cannot and will not accept that.”

Earlier this month, Romero said he was thankful for his electoral victory.

“I had so many people … who were involved in making this happen,” Romero, owner of A-Fast Coping Tile and Stone, said March 5. “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.”

District 90 includes several inner-city areas such as Worth Heights, Polytechnic Heights and Como, as well as portions of some south and northside neighborhoods.

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

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