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Remaining top GOP candidates have ties to North Texas

None of the four Republicans still running for president are from Dallas-Fort Worth but all have ties to the region.

Whether through family, business ties or past political victories, connections abound between North Texas and Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

For Santorum and Paul, the connection is through their children.

Last fall, Elizabeth Santorum, 20, opted to take a break from her studies at the University of Dallas, a private Catholic school in Irving, to work on her dad's campaign.

"I was looking forward to being a junior at the University of Dallas this year and instead I find myself being a field staffer/phone banker/chauffeur/surrogate speaker for my dad," she wrote in a December blog post on her father's campaign site. "And quite honestly, I couldn't be happier or more blessed."

Signs point to Elizabeth Santorum also being happy with her school, where she studies politics with a concentration in journalism, according to the university.

"When you're here, everything you do brings you to God, and that's the most beautiful thing I think life can offer," she is quoted as saying in a promotion on the university's website.

Yet being part of a presidential campaign has provided its own kind of education. When her sister Bella, 3, was admitted to a hospital for pneumonia, Rick Santorum had to leave the campaign trail, prompting Elizabeth to host a rally at a Florida airport.

Ten days later at a Plano rally, Rick Santorum expressed gratitude that his eldest daughter and son John had put their own plans on hold to help.

Yet Elizabeth wasn't at her father's side at that rally. The presidential candidate told the crowd that his daughter had made sure to take the night off.

"She's out having fun with her friends here in Dallas," he said.

A boost from local son

The only Texan still in the race has been boosted by his kids on the campaign trail as well. While U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is Ron Paul's most famous son, Robert Paul, a Benbrook doctor who lives in Fort Worth, has also worked on his dad's presidential bids.

"I think my dad has changed the dialogue dramatically in the last four to eight years," Robert Paul told the Star-Telegram in August. "He's been telling them for 30 years. They just haven't listened."

Last year, Robert Paul considered a U.S. Senate bid in Texas but decided against running for now.

"My dad told us something like, 'If you understand liberty and understand what the problems are, and you do nothing, then you are part of the problem,'" he said at the time.

Newt and Jim

Gingrich's most notable North Texas tie isn't an amicable one.

Twenty-three years ago, Fort Worth Democrat Jim Wright was Speaker of the U.S. House when Gingrich, an Atlanta congressman, began publicly questioning some of Wright's financial dealings. Wright resigned in 1989 though he never admitted any wrongdoing. He has said he stepped down voluntarily to avoid getting mired in a partisan dispute aimed at destroying reputations.

In the ensuing years, as Gingrich rose to Wright's old job, faced his own ethics scandals and ultimately resigned from the House, Wright has remained outspoken in characterizing Gingrich as power-hungry and dangerous. Gingrich has called Wright "corrupt" and "a crook" but also "one of the strongest" lawmakers to have served in the House.

Wright doesn't expect Gingrich to be the GOP's nominee, a good result for the country in his view.

Bain ties

Romney's political history is grounded in Massachusetts, but his business success reached around the world. Bain Capital, the private equity investment firm Romney founded in 1984, invested in dozens of companies over the 15 years while Romney was its leader, many with ties to Texas.

In one case, labor problems at a North Texas company doomed Romney's first foray into political office.

Ampad, an office paper supplier, was based in Holyoke, Mass., when Bain bought a controlling stake in 1992. Soon after, Bain moved the company's headquarters to Dallas.

After purchasing an Indiana paper plant in 1994, Ampad fired all the workers and then rehired most of them at lower salaries and fewer benefits, according to news reports. The local union went on strike and created a public relations nightmare for Romney, who had stepped away from Bain to launch a campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

Like some Republicans have been doing more recently, Kennedy used Romney's success with Bain against him. Campaign commercials featured interviews with fired employees from the paper plant.

After Kennedy won the race, Romney said his biggest mistake was not hitting back strongly enough on the attacks related to Ampad.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Aman Batheja, 817-390-7695

Twitter: @amanbatheja