State Rep. Lon Burnam was not going to go quietly.
Now, depending on how his election lawsuit turns out, the 18-year Texas House incumbent may not be going home at all.
The Fort Worth Democrat hinted at sparks in an email last week, railing in defeat against Rep.-elect Ramon Romero Jr. and warning: “Rest assured that I do not intend to ‘go quietly into the night.’ ”
Instead, Burnam went to district court with a lawsuit challenging mail-in ballots and fracturing local Democratic campaigns.
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For at least 40 years, candidates in both parties in Tarrant County have relied on gathering mail-in votes, and the losing candidate usually complains.
The Legislature has devoted time the last two sessions to debates on “ballot harvesting,” concerned that some campaign workers sign up dozens or even hundreds of voters for mail-in ballot applications, then collect the ballots or otherwise influence the vote.
The Legislature even passed a bill last session making it illegal to pay campaign workers per ballot collected.
In 2012, one of the defeated local Democratic candidates shared photos of what he claimed was an opponent’s “bounty list” of payments for votes in different precincts.
In a 2010 race, now-Justice of the Peace Lisa R. Woodard’s primary victory was upheld in court after the opponent challenged her 652 mail-in votes.
Burnam says Romero’s campaigners gathered some mail-in application signatures using an iPad app, which may or may not be legal under state law limiting the use of electronic signatures to certain approved equipment.
But it’s not Burnam’s first complaint about Romero, not even since Romero beat him by 111 votes March 4 to unofficially become Tarrant County’s first elected Hispanic state representative. (There is no Republican or third-party opponent in the November general election.)
In the final days of the campaign, the candidates exchanged bitter complaints. One of Burnam’s last mailers tried to connect Romero with police calls involving customers at his Picante Sports Cantina.
Then, in a March 14 fundraising email with the subject line “Thanks for the memories,” Burnam blamed “Wall Street hedge fund managers” and last-minute Romero support from a PAC related to New York-based public charter school advocates Education Reform Now.
“I am not finished and I will be spending the coming months holding Romero, Education Reform Now and other special economic interests accountable,” Burnam wrote, sounding like a candidate still on the trail.
In boldface lettering, Burnam wrote: “I have 10 months left as a state representative and I intend to use every bit of it.”
That’s what has some other Democrats worried.