Elections

What Beverly Powell’s win means. Is there a shift in Tarrant County’s political winds?

Beverly Powell reacts to the news she won the Texas Senate District 10 race.Powell beat incumbent Konni Burton, reclaiming the seat for Democrats.
Beverly Powell reacts to the news she won the Texas Senate District 10 race.Powell beat incumbent Konni Burton, reclaiming the seat for Democrats.

After her win Tuesday night over Republican incumbent Konni Burton, Beverly Powell vowed to hit the ground the running across Senate District 10.

“I’m going to get up and go to work,” Powell said. “I’m going to go on a tour of Senate District 10 and make sure I understand the needs of our district.”

The district covers a large swath of Tarrant County, including Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield and Colleyville.

In defeating Burton, Powell stressed she would be a champion for public education. The former Burleson school board president and Texas Wesleyan University board president has said she’ll have an open door for Tarrant County cities — the opposite of Burton who refused to see paid lobbyists hired to represent local governments.

If Burton had won, there was likely some fear of municipalities losing local control because she was a supporter of limited government and was backed by the political action committee, Empower Texans. That organization, which receives funding from Midland oilman Tim Dunn and is a big proponent of limiting local government, had been a big supporter of Burton’s campaign.

“Konni Burton likely lost to Beverly Powell in part because of teachers, school administrators against her and also some Republican defection because of fear that cities would lose some of their authority under her proposals,” UT Arlington political science professor Allan Saxe wrote in an email.

Burton issued a statement Wednesday morning, saying she would stay true to her views on the role of government.

“It’s been an incredible honor to serve Senate District 10 in the Texas legislature,” Burton said. “I remain dedicated to the principles of limited government, personal liberty and free market economics. I’m absolutely certain we will continue to see Texas stand for those principles.”

Don’t read too much into Powell’s victory as a sign of a blue wave, even though Democrat Beto O’Rourke narrowly won Tarrant County, said TCU political science professor Jim Riddlesperger.

Powell likely rode O’Rourke’s coattails to victory in the battle for Senate District 10, which has long been considered one of the true swing districts in Texas. Former Fort Worth City Councilwoman Wendy Davis won this seat in 2008, ousting incumbent Republican Kim Brimer. Burton won the seat in 2014, when Davis ran for the governor’s office.

The same dynamics that were in place to propel Powell to victory likely were occurring in the Dallas state Senate race where Dallas Republican Don Hufffines lost to Democratic challenger Nathan Johnson.

“I don’t think it was an upset at all,” Riddlesperger said of the SD 10 result. “It’s continuing a trend toward suburban voters being more open to Democratic candidates. We saw it across Texas. We saw it in this one and the Huffines race.”

Other Tarrant County Republicans won their races comfortably — if not by the huge margins they had done so in the past.

“It’s still red,” Riddlesperger said. “It’s just not as bloody red as before.”

In a debate on WFAA/Channel 8, Texas state Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) surprises challenger Beverly Powell, a Fort Worth Democrat, over past tax bills from one of Powell's businesses.

Staff writer Anna Tinsley contributed to this report.
Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna
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