Bud Kennedy

January 16, 2014

Experience has its downside for Senate District 10 candidates

Mark Shelton’s House career and 2012 close call become targets for primary challengers.

Mark Shelton came so close.

In 2012, the Fort Worth Republican and pediatrician lost to state Sen. Wendy Davis on the last day of voting, coming within 6,500 ballots of toppling her political machine in a long, hard-fought, $6 million campaign.

Now, some of his new Republican opponents say close didn’t count.

“We need to elect leaders who can actually win in November,” Arlington school trustee Tony Pompa says in his stump speech, challenging Shelton along with three Colleyville Republicans for the nomination in the now-open Fort Worth and Arlington state Senate seat.

Colleyville chiropractor Jon Schweitzer piles on.

“I’m not the one who couldn’t win it in the past,” he says, trying to gain footing in a campaign dominated so far by Pompa, Shelton and Konni Burton of Colleyville.

For Shelton’s part, he sounds exactly like he did 14 months ago when he won 140,000 votes and 49 percent against Davis.

“I am the proven conservative leader in this race,” he said at three Republican club forums the last two weeks, repeating his 2012 speech.

“I have experience in business, experience in the community and experience in the Legislature,” he said, referring to his two terms in the Texas House and service on budget and education committees.

That is no longer a good thing to Republicans like Burton, a former Tea Party spokeswoman critical of both recent state budgets and the Republicans who passed them.

Since President George W. Bush’s second term, she told a downtown forum last week, she has been concerned about the “size of government and the overreach of government.”

“Both parties are leading us in the wrong direction,” she said, saying she represents a “grassroots” concerned about recent state budget increases.

(Mostly, that’s from population and inflation.)

Pompa, a business owner with $150,000 in his campaign account compared with Burton’s $191,000 and Shelton’s $181,000, spoke strongly about his school board votes as a Hispanic conservative often at odds with the local League of United Latin American Citizens.

“I have been called the ‘wrong kind of Mexican from the wrong side of town,’ and an ‘arrogant Mexican racist,’ ” he said.

“Not a single time did I ever back down from all those attacks. I promise I will fight for you.”

Former Colleyville City Council member Mark Skinner, a commercial real estate agent, has raised the least money of the five.

But Skinner also turned up the rhetoric Thursday, saying he co-founded Fellowship Church and declaring that a Democratic victory in Texas this year would lead to the “demise of Texas and the demise of the moral fabric of the United States.”

The nominee will go up against a Fort Worth Democrat, either energy executive Mike Martinez or neighborhoods activist Libby Willis.

Combined, they have raised about $120,000 in a race where Davis spent $3.5 million last cycle.

This one might not be so close.

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