There may be no better time for a Democrat to run for the 6th Congressional District.
Last year, as longtime U.S. Rep. Joe Barton announced he wouldn't seek re-election — after coming under fire for a nude photo shared online and private messages with sexual overtones he sent a female constituent — many concluded the district might finally be up for grabs.
Five Democrats — Ruby Faye Woolridge, Jana Lynne Sanchez, Levii R. Shocklee, John W. Duncan and Justin Snider — will face off in the March 6 primary, hoping to win the party's nomination and try to break the more than three decades of Republican hold on the district.
It may still be an uphill battle, some political observers note.
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"Open seats sometimes see a big swing to the other party in midterm wave years, so I don’t think one can totally rule out the Democrats making a play here if the cycle breaks in their favor," said Kyle Kondik, managing editor for Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "But they would need outstanding nonwhite turnout in what is a diversifying but still clearly GOP-leaning district."
At stake is a two-year term that pays $174,000 a year. The district includes parts of east and southwest Fort Worth, most of Arlington and Mansfield and all of Ellis and Navarro counties.
The winner of the Democratic race, will face off against the winner of the Republican primary. In that race, 11 candidates — J.K. “Jake” Ellzey, Deborah Gagliardi, Ron Wright, Mark Mitchell, Troy Ratterree, Mel Hassell, Shawn Dandridge, Kevin Harrison, Ken Cope, Shannon Dubberly and Thomas Dillingham — are seeking their party's nomination.
Early voting for the primary election runs from Tuesday to March 2.
Here's a look at the Democrats in this race:
Two of the highest-profile Democrats in the race are Woolridge, who has run for the seat before, and Sanchez, a public relations consultant.
Woolridge, a retired teacher and longtime civic leader, won the party's nomination for the post in 2016 but lost to Barton in the general election, drawing 39 percent of the vote.
The Arlington resident said she's the best candidate because "in a district as diverse as District 6, residents need a representative who will serve all of them — rural and urban, rich and poor, all races and ethnic groups, those with environmental concerns and others with business interests."
The main issues in the race include providing affordable healthcare and livable wages as well as offering and funding the best public education possible for students "in pre-K through 14," she said.
"My top priorities are to provide relevant constituent services, work with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to improve access to transportation services work to improve access to medical services at rural and urban medical facilities (and) pursue alternative energy sources to meet air quality standards in the district while depending less on fossil fuels," she said.
As for Sanchez, she is a 53-year-old Waxahachie resident who has drawn attention and endorsements in her bid for the seat, particularly after the nude photos of Barton went viral.
"I decided to run for Congress because I was tired of the divisive rhetoric that was rampant during the 2016 presidential election," she said. "I am the best candidate because I am willing to work with anyone who has a good idea, regardless of their political party affiliation and because I am committed to advocating for the people of District 6 — a district that hasn't been adequately represented for over 30 years."
She said the main issues in the race include quality healthcare, public school funding and immigration reform that "offers a path to legal status."
If elected, she said her top priority "will be advocating for universal and affordable healthcare. Heathcare is a basic human right. We can do better for patients and for all taxpayers by building on what works in the U.S. system and expanding it to cover everyone. Republicans have threatened the life and health of all Americans by rushing to repeal the ACA with no replacement."
Here's a look at the other three candidates, all making their first bids for public office.
Shocklee is a 39-year-old contracting officer for a private company who formerly served in the Navy.
"My calling has always been to serve our country just as I did in the U.S. Navy and afterward working for the Department of Defense," the Arlington resident said. "Serving others is simply who I am at my core, and so I hope the voters will allow me to continue my service by representing our district in order to lift up Texas families."
He said the main issues in the race include immigration reform, bettering public education and healthcare, improving the future of Social Security, increasing minimum wage, growing jobs, and improving women's rights, civil rights, national security and the environment.
"This election is so pivotal because not only are all these issues interrelated, but they are also integral to our continued success and our ability to maintain our leadership role on the global stage," Shocklee said. "We must build bridges across party lines so that our government can regain functional progress for the people."
Duncan, a 37-year-old compliance officer who lives in Arlington, said he wants to be a new voice for "the hardworking families of this district" in Washington, D.C.
"What I do in Congress will be influenced by what my constituents believe," he said. "I will not be elected to promote my own agenda, but rather to represent the many unique voices of Texans in our district."
If elected, Duncan said his top priorities would include working on a single-payer Medicare, boosting federal funding for public schools, working for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, supporting campaign reform and proposing clean energy plans to combat climate change.
But one of the biggest challenges would be addressing how congressional members appear to be unwilling to work together to find solutions. "Many of our elected officials seem more concerned about party loyalty and voting in the interests of their biggest donors and lobbyists than they are about representing the needs of their constituents," he said.
And Snider, a 36-year-old locksmith and small-business owner in Arlington, said he feels it's his duty to run for this office.
"I am tired of waiting for the right people to step up," he said. "We do not need groomed politicians, lawyers and those at the top representing the average American. I am an average citizen who has struggled to get by and I will be a representative that the average voter can be proud to have."
The main issues in the race, he said, include commonsense gun legislation, women's health, healthcare for all, supporting public education, immigration reform, income inequality, military and veteran services, tax reform and making sure senior citizens can retire at a reasonable age.
If elected, he said he will hold a forum to let constituents "debate and ultimately decide the way I should vote in Congress. As a progressive candidate, I will push for and recommend which way we take as a community, but ultimately it will be the people who decide."
Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley