Politics & Government

New GOP lawmakers Burton and Tinderholt prepare to take office in January

Konni Burton woke up early Wednesday to a familiar sound: Her phone was ringing.

After getting just a few hours’ sleep, Burton, the soon-to-be-newest member of the Tarrant County delegation to the Texas Senate — couldn’t help but smile.

“It’s just phenomenal,” said Burton, who won the hotly contested, multimillion-dollar battle Tuesday to represent Senate District 10. “It’s a great thing.”

Burton claimed 52.08 percent of the vote over Democrat Libby Willis’ 44.71 percent, Libertarian Gene Lord’s 1.38 percent and Green Party John Tunmire’s 0.45 percent of the vote to replace Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis in the Senate, according to election results from the Texas secretary of state.

She and Republican Tony Tinderholt of Arlington, who won the race to replace state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, in the Texas House, will be the newest members of the local legislative delegation that will be sworn in Jan. 13, when the Legislature goes back to work.

“Both Konni Burton and Tony Tinderholt seem to be very conservative Republicans,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Konni Burton will make the state Senate even more Republican since taking the seat once held by Democrat Wendy Davis. Tony Tinderholt likewise is a very conservative Republican and perhaps more so than Diane Patrick.

“Texas was Republican before Nov. 4, but even stronger Republican now as these two new legislators signify.”

Burton, a Colleyville conservative with Tea Party ties, won one of the most watched races in the state this election season, as many wanted to see which candidate could claim the post held for years by Davis, who gave it up to run for governor.

District 10, which was represented by Republican Kim Brimer until Davis narrowly beat him in 2008. has long been regarded as a key battleground because it’s neither solidly Republican or Democrat.

“I’m very excited,” Burton said. “For me, to take a seat from a polar opposite to myself, politically speaking, is a pretty phenomenal feat.”

Senate District 10

For Burton, who has long been involved in grassroots efforts for candidates, the victory took a little while to sink in, she said.

“It’s very surreal,” she said.

But the phone calls, messages, texts, Facebook posts and emails from supporters, including several state senators, are helping it feel real, she said.

She was busy Wednesday trying to catch up with various day-after-election duties, such as returning phone calls, collecting campaign signs and handling a host of issues at her campaign offices.

Burton said she knew that the race for District 10 wasn’t about just one Senate seat, but about the balance of power in the Legislature’s upper chamber. With her victory, the Republican Party moved closer to a supermajority in the Senate, diluting Texas Democrats’ last line of defense in the Legislature.

“While to some people it might sound scary, this is a great thing for all Texans,” she said. “It’s about limited government, fiscal responsibility and using taxpayers’ money wisely. Good things for the state of Texas will come from this.”

The district includes Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield and Colleyville.

House District 94

Tinderholt, a 21-year military veteran, won this House seat Tuesday night, claiming 56.64 percent of the vote to Democrat Cole Ballweg’s 40.47 percent and Libertarian Robert Harris’s 2.88 percent, state election records show.

District 94, in central west Arlington, includes Pantego and Dalworthington Gardens. It stretches from Interstate 30 south to the Mansfield line and from East Loop 820 east to Collins Street.

Some political strategists had suggested that the district, which has been in Republican hands for decades, could be up for grabs after at least one internal poll showed the race in a dead heat.

Tinderholt bested Patrick, who has represented the district for four terms, in the Republican primary, claiming 55 percent of the vote and leaving the seat without an incumbent heading into the general election.

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