The race to replace Wendy Davis in the Texas Senate remains one of the hottest political campaigns in the state.
In about a month, Republican voters will head back to the polls to once and for all choose a candidate in the race — either longtime tea party activist Konni Burton of Colleyville or former state Rep. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth — to face Democrat Libby Willis in the November general election.
This decision could not only make or break the GOP’s efforts to reclaim the district, and move their party closer to a super majority, but it also could impact the overall ideological balance of power in the Senate.
“It is important in terms of ideological super majorities,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. “A victory by Willis would on its own have a neutral effect on the ideological balance of power in the Senate.
“The election of Shelton would move it to the right and the election of Burton even further to the right.”
The winner of the Republican Party runoff will not only square off against Willis, but also against Libertarian Gene Lord and Green Party candidate John Tunmire of Fort Worth in the general election.
Voters in March whittled a field of five Republican candidates down to two.
Burton led with 43.23 percent of the vote and was followed by Shelton with 35.16 percent, leaving behind fellow challengers Arlington school Trustee Tony Pompa, Colleyville chiropractor Jon Schweitzer and Mark Skinner of Colleyville.
Political observers have long tagged this race as one to watch.
That’s not only because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on the campaign, but also because this district is the only one in the state that can’t be predicted to tilt Republican or Democrat in November.
It is “the only swing Senate district in the state,” Jones said. “In every one of the other Senate districts, the partisan composition of voters skews sufficiently Democrat or Republican that the outcome of the election in November is a foregone conclusion.
“While the partisan composition of SD-10 leans Republican, as Wendy Davis has demonstrated, it is still winnable for a Democrat.”
Davis, D-Fort Worth, chose to not seek re-election to this post. Instead, she decided to run for Texas governor.
Shelton, a pediatrician and former state representative who lost a Senate bid to Davis in 2012, reported having the most cash on hand before the March 4 primary election, according to the most recent reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
At that time, the 57-year-old had nearly $130,000 in cash on hand, along with a $100,000 outstanding loan. Shelton noted that while his campaign does have a loan, “we have not spent it,” making his the only campaign in this race in the black.
Among his donors: BSNF Rail PAC, $1,000; Freese and Nichols PAC of Fort Worth, $250; Red McCombs, a San Antonio car dealer, $1,000; Medical Defense PAC, $5,000; and WA Moncrief Jr., $500.
He said he is the right person for this job.
“My responsible, conservative record representing Tarrant County is the best contrast against the Democrats in November,” said Shelton, who served two terms representing District 97 in the House. “Unlike my opponent, I am the only candidate in this race with experience in business, the community and the legislature.”
Two differences between Shelton and Burton arose during a recent candidate forum hosted by the Fort Worth Republican Women at the Fort Worth Club.
Shelton supports both issues: actively working to draw businesses to Texas and the state’s water plan that was approved by the Texas Legislature last year. Burton said she would have voted against the water plan because it creates another layer of government and believes businesses will come to Texas without tax dollars being spent to lure them here and “pick winners and losers in the market place.”
Shelton has picked up endorsements from Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, the Texas Association of Businesses, Texas Association of Realtors, Texas Medical Association and Hispanic Republicans of Texas.
He said he has experience in balancing a state budget and cutting taxes.
“My focus is on finding Texas solutions to healthcare, strengthening our economy, improving education and securing our borders,” he said. “Ms. Burton has no record and her positions are out of step with voters in Fort Worth, Arlington and the mid-cities.”
“Voters have a clear choice on May 27,” he said. “It comes down to which candidate is the most responsible choice to represent Tarrant County families.”
Burton, a longtime leader in the NE Tarrant Tea Party, reported having nearly $60,000 in the bank, along with $200,000 in outstanding loans, before the March 4 primary, according to the ethics commission reports.
Since the primary, the 51-year-old has held a standing-room only fundraiser headlined by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who encouraged supporters to give to her campaign.
Among Burton’s earlier donations: $250 from the Bill Zedler campaign; $7,000 from Alan Harper of Arlington, president of Lender’s and Member’s Services; $1,000 from the Tea Parties of Texas PAC in Irving; and $1,000 from Doug Miller of Keller, the chief operating officer of RDA Solutions.
Burton, who has been active in numerous political campaigns and grassroots politics at the local, state and national levels, said she was prompted to run by a desire for conservative leadership in all levels of government.
“The fact that we re-elected Wendy Davis ... was a frustration of mine,” she said during the recent candidate forum. “I’m frustrated we have had a very liberal Democrat represent us in SD 10 and I’m ready to take that seat back.”
Top issues for her include protecting life and constitutional rights, implementing zero based budgeting and eliminating the state’s business margins tax.
“This campaign has what it takes to go in and beat the Democrats in November ... and finally get conservative representation back for SD 10,” said Burton, a former sales representative and small-business owner.
Burton’s endorsements include those from Cruz; Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley; Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright; Tarrant County Commissioners Andy Nguyen and Gary Fickes; and Republican state Reps. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, Matt Krause of Fort Worth, Bill Zedler of Arlington and Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake.
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.
It was considered a fairly safe Republican district until Davis bested state Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Arlington, in 2008.
In 2012, Republicans statewide worked to reclaim the seat for their party as Democrats backed Davis in her re-election bid against Shelton. Davis won re-election with 51.12 percent of the vote.
This Senate seat is vital to both parties. If Democrats lose it and all other Senate seats stay the same, Republicans inch closer to clinching a super majority in the chamber.
However, if Houston Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick is elected Texas’ next lieutenant governor, he is expected to change the two-thirds rule to a three-fifths rule, making it easier for the Republican majority to pass any legislation they desire.
The two-thirds rule requires at least 21 votes before a bill can reach the floor for debate. Currently, Republicans have 19 seats in the upper chamber and Democrats have 12.
Patrick faces Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a May 27 runoff. The winner of that runoff faces Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the November general election.
MAY 27 PRIMARY RUNOFFS
For more information on the runoff races, go online to the Star-Telegram’s 2014 Primary Runoff Voters Guide. Sample ballots are available on the Tarrant County Elections Center website. Monday is the last day to register to vote in the runoff election. Early voting runs from May 19-23.
Here’s a look at the races that will be on the Tarrant County ballot for the primary runoff:
U.S. Senate: David M. Alameel, Kesha Rogers
Agriculture commissioner: Jim Hogan, Richard “Kinky” Friedman
State Board of Education, District 13: Erika Beltran, Andrea Hilburn
Lt. governor: Dan Patrick, David Dewhurst
Attorney general: Ken Paxton, Dan Branch
Agriculture commissioner: Sid Miller, Tommy Merritt
Railroad commissioner: Wayne Christian, Ryan Sitton
State Board of Education, District 11: Patricia “Pat” Hardy, Eric Mahroum
Senate District 10: Konni Burton, Mark M. Shelton
Judge, County Criminal Court No. 2: Atticus Gill, Carey Walker
Judge, County Criminal Court No. 3: Bob McCoy, Alexander Kim
Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3: Russ Casey, Lenny Lopez
KEY ELECTION DATES
Here’s a look at important election dates and deadlines for upcoming elections.
Monday — First day of early voting for the May 10 local election; last day to register to vote for May 27 primary runoff election
May 6 — Last day of early voting for the May 10 local election
May 10 — Local election
May 19 — First day of early voting for May 27 Primary Runoff election
May 23 — Last day of early voting for May 27 Primary Runoff election
May 27 — Primary runoff election
Source: Tarrant County Elections
Early voting in Tarrant County
Early voting for the May 10 municipal election runs from Monday - May 6: from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday -May 2; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. May 3; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. May 4; and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. May 5-6.
• Main early voting site: Tarrant County Election Center, 2700 Premier St. Fort Worth
• Bob Duncan Center, 2800 South Center St., Arlington
• Elzie Odom Athletic Center, 1601 NE Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington
• Center for Community Service Junior League of Arlington, 4002 West Pioneer Parkway, Arlington
• South Service Center, 1100 SW Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington
• Tarrant County Sub‐Courthouse in Arlington, 700 E. Abram St. Arlington
• B J Clark Annex Room 4, 603 Southeast Parkway, Azle
• Bedford Public Library, 2424 Forest Ridge Dr., Bedford
• Colleyville City Hall, 100 Main St., Colleyville
• Crowley Community Center, 900 E. Glendale St., Crowley
• Euless Public Library, 201 N. Ector Dr., Euless
• Forest Hill Civic and Convention Center, 6901 Wichita St., Forest Hill
• All Saints Catholic Church Parish Hall , 200 N.W. 20th St., Fort Worth
• Diamond Hill/Jarvis Library, 1300 Northeast 35th St., Fort Worth
• Griffin Sub‐Courthouse, 3212 Miller Ave., Fort Worth
• Handley-Meadowbrook Community Center, 6201 Beaty St., Fort Worth
• James Avenue Service Center, 5001 James Ave., Fort Worth
• JPS Health Center Viola M. Pitts/Como Lower Level – Suite 100, 4701 Bryant Irvin Rd. N., Fort Worth
• Northwest Branch Library, 6228 Crystal Lake Dr., Fort Worth
• Riverside Community Center, 3700 E. Belknap St., Fort Worth
• Sendera Ranch Elementary School, 1216 Diamond Back Ln., Fort Worth
• Southside Community Center, 959 E. Rosedale St., Fort Worth
• Southwest Sub‐Courthouse, 6551 Granbury Rd., Fort Worth
• Summerglen Branch Library, 4205 Basswood Blvd. Fort Worth
• Tarrant County Plaza Building, 201 Burnett St. Fort Worth
• Villages of Woodland Springs Amenity Center, 12209 Timberland Blvd. Fort Worth
• Worth Heights Community Center, 3551 New York Ave. Fort Worth
• Asia Times Square, 2615 W. Pioneer Parkway, Grand Prairie
• Lake Park Operations Center, 5610 Lake Ridge Parkway, Grand Prairie
• Grapevine Convention Center, 1209 S. Main St., Grapevine
• Haltom City Northeast Center, 3201 Friendly Ln., Haltom City
• Haslet Public Library, 100 Gammil St., Haslet
• Hurst Recreation Center, 700 Mary Dr., Hurst
• Keller Town Hall, 1100 Bear Creek Parkway, Keller
• Mansfield Sub‐Courthouse, 1100 E. Broad St., Mansfield
• Richland Hills Community Center, 3204 Diana Dr., Richland Hills
• River Oaks City Hall, 4900 River Oaks Blvd., River Oaks
• John M. Tidwell Middle School, 3937 Haslet‐Roanoke Rd., Roanoke
• Eagle Mountain‐Saginaw ISD Administration Building 6 – Training Room, 1200 Old Decatur Rd., Saginaw
• City of Sansom Park City Hall, 5705 Azle Ave., Sansom Park
• Southlake Town Hall, 1400 Main St., Southlake
• Watauga City Hall, 7105 Whitley Rd., Watauga
Source: Tarrant County Elections