Politics & Government

January 19, 2014

Countdown to the March 4 primary

Some local state legislators face primary challenges.

Less than seven weeks.

That’s how long candidates on the March 4 primary ballot have to persuade voters to elect them to office.

Locally, about one-third of Tarrant County’s state legislators face primary challenges, and candidates are hard at work putting up yard signs, walking blocks, making robo calls and trying to reach out to potential voters any way possible.

They know that election day may be nearly two months away, but early voting starts in a little more than a month, on Feb. 18.

“It’s a very, very short primary,” said Tom Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Nobody has been paying attention through Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s.

“But now, this is a window for people … and their attention will go up.”

Here’s a look at the locally contested state legislative races.

House races

There are three primary battles involving local House districts:

District 90 pits Democrats Lon Burnam of Fort Worth, the incumbent, and Ramon Romero Jr. of Fort Worth against each other.

Burnam, who has represented this heavily Hispanic House district since 1997, is the dean of the Tarrant County delegation and 20th in seniority in the 150-member House. Long considered one of the House’s most liberal members, Burnam has forged a working relationship with GOP leaders and House members.

Romero, a Fort Worth native, has served as head of the city’s planning commission and as a member of the city’s golf advisory committee, Zoning Commission and Air Quality Task Force Committee. He has said he wants to serve to give back to his community.

In District 92, Republicans Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, the incumbent, and Andy Cargile of Hurst face off in the primary.

Stickland, elected to the House in 2012, describes himself as a “conservative Christian Republican” who supports “limited government, transparency, limiting regulation and most importantly wants to represent the voters, not the lobbies.”

Cargile, a retired high school principal and school board member for the Hurst-Euless-Bedford district, believes he’s the best person to represent the district and would “bring a reasoned and earnest approach to the Texas House.”

This race is a classic example of an ongoing battle between conservative Republicans in Texas, said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

“Establishment conservatives view their movement conservative brethren as excessively ideological and obstructionist and fear [their] actions jeopardize the Republican Party’s long-term control of Texas,” he said. “In contrast, movement conservatives believe their establishment counterparts are too quick to compromise conservative principles in the name of political expediency and are overly beholden to the Austin lobby.”

In this case, Jones said Stickland is a movement conservative incumbent being challenged by Cargile, an establishment conservative. This race has been tagged as “of interest to conservatives” by the NE Tarrant Tea Party.

But in District 94, where Republicans Diane Patrick of Arlington, the incumbent, and Tony Tinderholt of Arlington are squaring off, it’s the opposite. Patrick is an establishment conservative incumbent being challenged by a movement conservative.

Patrick, a four-term incumbent who made big headlines by unseating the powerful state Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, in 2006, is seeking another term representing the Arlington-area district. The former schoolteacher and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, Patrick holds a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which plays a role in determining how state money is spent.

Tinderholt describes himself as a “father, veteran and conservative Republican” who “has felt called to service my entire life.” He said he decided to run for this office, where he found “there was a lack of leadership,” to put into action his “fiscal and socially conservative principles.”

This race also has been tagged “of interest to conservatives” by the NE Tarrant Tea Party.

Senate race

The biggest local fight of all may be for Senate District 10, which state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is leaving to pursue her gubernatorial bid.

Republicans Konni Burton of Colleyville, who is a longtime leader in the NE Tarrant Tea Party, Arlington school Trustee Tony Pompa, Colleyville chiropractor Jon Schweitzer, former state Rep. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth and Mark Skinner of Colleyville will square off for their party’s nomination.

And Democrats Mike Martinez, who is a Fort Worth energy executive, and Libby Willis, a longtime neighborhood leader in Fort Worth, are also vying for their party’s nomination. George Boll was in the race, but he suspended his campaign Dec. 30.

Even two Libertarians, Gene Lord and Gene M. Woodard III, are vying for a spot on the Nov. 4 ballot.

This is expected to be one of the most watched and most expensive contests in the state. The 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.

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 it up for grabs.

“This year, there is real discontent and turbulence in our politics and political system,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at UTA.

But “challenges within parties and between parties is a very healthy and good thing,” he said. “The founders of this country wanted a turnover and in the early days of the country most representatives only served two terms or so.”

General election races

Nearly all local legislators will face a challenge in November. Here’s a look at who is likely to be on that ballot.

Senate District 10: The winners of the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian primaries — Green Party candidate John Tunmire of Fort Worth— will square off to determine who will represent this seat.

Senate District 9: Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, Democrat Gregory R. Perry, Libertarian Nicolas Wallace.

House District 91: Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, Democrat David L. Ragan, Libertarian Felecia Whatley.

House District 92: The winner of the Stickland/Cargile race; Democrat Tina Penney.

House District 93: Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, Libertarian Jeff Owens.

House District 94: The winner of the Patrick/Tinderholt race will face off against Democrat Cole Ballweg and Libertarian Robert Harris.

House District 95: Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, Republican Albert McDaniel.

House District 96: Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, Libertarian Quinn Eaker.

House District 97: Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, Libertarian Rod Wingo.

House District 101: Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, Libertarian Carl Nulsen.

And two local legislators did not appear to draw any challenges.

State Rep. District 98: Republican Giovanni Capriglione

State Rep. District 99: Republican Charlie Geren

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