The Republican race to reclaim Senate District 10 — which has been represented for years by a Fort Worth Democrat — is heating up and becoming more costly by the day.
Already, the five Republicans in the race have stockpiled more than $500,000 between them and while they agree on the need for the GOP to take back the seat, they disagree on who the right person to do that is.
“Don’t be misled, thinking that we can step into this race and place any candidate in this race and walk away a winner,” said Mark Skinner, one of the candidates, during a Republican Women of Arlington candidate forum Thursday. “It’s not going to happen.
“Battleground Texas will fight,” he said. “And we need a fighter … [who can go] toe-to-toe with anyone they put out there.”
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Each Republican in the race — Skinner; Konni Burton of Colleyville, a longtime leader in the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party; Arlington school Trustee Tony Pompa; Colleyville chiropractor Jon Schweitzer; and former state Rep. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth — believes he or she is the right person for this job.
“Everyone up here is a good Republican,” said Pompa, during the event at the Shady Valley Golf Club in Arlington. “We need to elect leaders who can win in November.”
The race for this seat has long been expected to become one of the the most watched and most expensive races in the state.
Burton has $191,000 on hand, with $200,000 in loans, and Shelton has $181,000 in the bank, with $100,000 in loans, according to campaign finance reports reflecting donations in the last half of 2013 that were filed with the Texas Ethics Commission this week.
Pompa has nearly $150,000 in cash on hand, with $195,000 in loans. Schweitzer has nearly $20,000 on hand, and no loans, and Skinner has nearly $7,000, with almost $1,500 in outstanding loans, the reports show.
At the same time, the Democrats in the race together have raised more than $110,000 in their effort to hold on to the seat. Libby Willis, a longtime neighborhood leader, has more than $92,000 in the bank, which includes a $77,000 loan to herself. Mike Martinez, a local energy executive, has more than $20,000.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is not seeking re-election to this seat. Instead, she is running for governor.
During Thursday’s candidate forum, the candidates spoke about their bids for the office and why he or she is the best choice.
Burton said she has long been involved with grassroots efforts and wants to continue her fight for conservative principles in Austin.
“What everybody’s looking for is someone who has a history of fighting for conservative principles,” she said, adding that if elected, the first bill she’d like to file would bring zero-based budgeting to the state government. “That’s what I have been doing.
“I am of the grassroots … and this is what this election needs. We have not had it [in this district] for years.”
Skinner, a former Colleyville city councilman and businessman, said he can bring a business perspective to the post.
He said it’s crucial that people in the district send to Austin a leader who is “capable of standing for traditional principles.”
“I am a fighter,” he said. “I am the person who should be leading this charge because I know what it takes to be successful.”
Pompa, as a businessman and educator, said he brings a different approach to the race. And he believes legislative decisions should be made based on the Constitution and not what Republicans in power want.
“I am your candidate,” he said. “This race is being watched not only here but across the nation. … It’s an important race, a critical race.
“We have to bring SD 10 back to the Republican Party, back to where it belongs,” he said. “I believe I’m the candidate who can do that.”
Shelton, a physician who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate District 10 seat against state Sen. Wendy Davis in 2012, said he wants to go to Austin to develop “Texas solutions to health care,” improve education, strengthen the economy and secure the state’s borders.
“I am the proven conservative leader in this race,” he said. “I have experience in business, in the community and in the legislature. Those things are important.
“Texas is a big state and we need dreams as big as the state of Texas,” he said. “We can do that.”
Schweitzer said if he is elected, he will roll up his sleeves and get to work on everything from slashing Medicaid costs to improving infrastructure in Tarrant County.
“I’m not going to Austin to make friends,” he said, adding that he is the only candidate who can guarantee victory in this race in November. “I don’t need to go down there hobnobbing.
“It’s time for the party to take leadership and accountability,” he said, adding that he’s “not the one who went out and couldn’t rally support in the past.”