Grassroots conservative Konni Burton claimed an easy victory Tuesday night over former state Rep. Mark Shelton in the quest for Texas Senate District 10 in the Republican primary runoff election.
In one of the most watched legislative races statewide — which could move Republicans closer to a supermajority in the upper chamber — Burton claimed 60 percent of the vote to Shelton’s 40 percent, according to complete but unofficial returns posted on the Texas secretary of state’s website.
“This has been a year of very hard work,” said Burton, who gathered with around 200 supporters at Stockyard Station after the polls closed. “We are very, very excited.
“Obviously our message of conservative principles is resonating with voters.”
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Shelton said he called Burton late Tuesday night to congratulate her.
“I’m really proud to have served in the Texas legislature,” he said. “I want to thank all my supporters who worked so hard.”
Several other local races were finally decided Tuesday night as well.
Those who claimed victory: Republicans Carey Walker, for Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 2; Bob McCoy for Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 3; and incumbent Russ Casey for justice of the peace, Precinct 3.
And in the battle for two local State Board of Education seats, Democrat Erika Beltran won the fight to replace the retiring Mavis Best Knight in District 13 and Republican incumbent Patricia “Pat” Hardy won her quest for another term representing District 11.
Senate District 10
District 10 — which includes Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield and Colleyville — has been represented by Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis since 2009.
In the March primary, 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.
Burton, a 51-year-old Tea Party activist, threw her hat into the ring for this post long before Davis ever decided to not seek re-election to instead run for governor. She has been backed by supporters ranging from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to state Reps. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford and Bill Zedler of Arlington.
Shelton, a 57-year-old former state representative who unsuccessfully challenged Davis for this post in 2012, has maintained he has the experience and businesslike approach needed to represent this district. His support has come from Republicans such Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth.
The GOP has long hoped to claim this district to move their party closer to a supermajority and essentially remove Texas Democrats’ ability to stop any proposal in the legislature. A longstanding Senate rule calls for two-thirds of the 31-member Senate, or 21 senators, to agree before a bill can reach the floor for debate. Republicans hold 19 seats; this would inch them closer to the majority needed.
The winner of this race will face Democrat Libby Willis, Libertarian Gene Lord and Green Party candidate John Tunmire in November.
Texas Democrats say there are clear differences between Burton and Willis.
“Konni Burton has been pushing Republicans off the ideological cliff, more interested in divisive politics than real solutions,” said Manny Garcia, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party. “Texas needs a strong common-sense leader, who knows that neighbor to neighbor anything can be accomplished. Libby Willis is that leader.”
Willis said she sees clear differences between herself and Burton. “She [Burton] does seem more concerned about ideological purity … than doing what’s best for all the people of Senate District 10,” she said.
Burton, who plans to take a few days off and then resume campaigning, disagreed.
“I’m a principled conservative,” she said. “Obviously the voters agree with that.”
A look at the result in local judicial races, according to complete but unofficial returns on the Tarrant County Elections website:
• Walker drew 60 percent over Atticus Gill’s 40 percent in the race for Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 2. He faces Democrat Leon Reed Jr. in the November general election.
• McCoy, a sitting judge on the Texas 2nd Court of Appeals, earned 60 percent to Alexander Kim’s 40 percent, in the fight for Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 3. No Democrat is running in November.
• Incumbent Casey pulled 72 percent to challenger Lenny Lopez’s 28 percent, in the battle for justice of the peace Precinct 3. No Democrat filed for this race.
State Board of Education
Also on the ballot: two local fights for seats on the 15-member State Board of Education, which has a primary goal of managing the state’s Permanent School Fund but also oversees public school curriculum.
Incumbent Patricia “Pat” Hardy, a longtime educator, was holding on to 59 percent, compared with the 41 percent earned by challenger Eric Mahroum, an operations manager from Bedford and a Tea Party activist.
In District 13, Erica Beltran, a policy program director for Teaching Trust, drew 66 percent of the vote to the 33 percent pulled by Andrea Hilburn, a longtime educator in the Dallas school district.