In the end, Konni Burton was true to her word: She reclaimed Senate District 10 for her party.
Burton, a Republican, claimed 53 percent of the vote to Democrat Libby Willis’ 44.5 percent in a hotly contested multimillion-dollar battle for the post held for six years by Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis, who gave it up to run for governor.
“It’s hard to believe that over 20 months ago I started having conversations with conservatives across Tarrant County about the need for someone to challenge Wendy Davis,” Burton, a Colleyville conservative with Tea Party ties, told about 300 supporters gathered at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. “We were all sick and tired of being represented by a liberal in Austin who didn’t reflect the conservative values of District 10.
“Tonight, our neighbors have spoken,” she said. “Nationally, the American people have rejected the president’s agenda for our nation. In Texas, the people have sent the Democrats packing, and in Tarrant County, we replaced one of the most radical liberals in Texas with a conservative voice.”
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As the GOP continued its dominance of statewide offices, Republican Tony Tinderholt won the race to replace state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, in the Texas House next year. And all the incumbents in local state Senate and House races won or had solid leads in their re-election bids, according to unofficial results.
But it was the battle for Senate District 10 that captivated the attention of many statewide.
Willis, a longtime Fort Worth community activist who gathered with supporters at the Mamma Mia Italian restaurant, called Burton to congratulate her on the race.
“Although we came up short tonight, I am proud of the campaign that we ran,” she said. “I congratulate Konni Burton on her victory, and now we should all stand together as Texans and offer our help and encouragement to her.
“We gave a voice to many people in Tarrant County that want leaders who will work together to get things done. I hope that our new legislators in Austin will continue to focus on solving critical issues that unite us like improving our public schools, expanding affordable healthcare and improving our infrastructure.“
This was 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.
The seat — which was represented by Republican Kim Brimer until Davis narrowly beat him in 2008 — has long been declared a key battleground because it’s neither solidly Republican nor Democrat.
The battle for District 10 wasn’t just about one Senate seat. It was about the ideological balance of power in the Legislature’s upper chamber.
Supporters dropped millions of dollars into the race, with some of the largest donations for Burton coming from the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC and some of Willis’ largest donations coming from the Mostyn Law Firm in Austin or the Mostyn-funded Back to Basics PAC.
Burton, considered a rock star in Republican circles, drew support from a variety of people, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a high-profile darling of the Tea Party, local GOP state Reps. Jonathan Stickland, Matt Krause, Bill Zedler and Giovanni Capriglione and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.
Willis picked up endorsements from groups including the Texas State Teachers Association, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas and the Texas Municipal Police Association.
The district includes Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield and Colleyville.
Here’s a look at the results in other contested local legislative races on the ballot, according to unofficial returns from the Tarrant County Elections office and Texas secretary of state’s office.
State senator, District 9
Incumbent Republican Kelly Hancock drew 65.6 percent of the vote to Democrat Gregory R. Perry’s 34.4 percent.
This district includes portions of Arlington, Fort Worth and more than a dozen Northeast Tarrant County cities ranging from Bedford to Watauga.
State representative, District 91
Incumbent Republican Stephanie Klick picked up 68.7 percent of the vote to Democrat David L. Ragan’s 28.2 percent and Libertarian Felecia Whatley’s 3.1 percent.
The district includes North Richland Hills, Richland Hills, Haltom City, Watauga and a small portion of Fort Worth.
State representative, District 92
Incumbent Republican Jonathan Stickland accrued 63.6 percent of the vote to Democrat Tina Penney’s 36.4 percent.
This district is centered on Hurst, Euless and Bedford.
State representative, District 94
Republican Tinderholt earned 56.6 percent of the vote to Democrat Cole Ballweg’s 40.5 percent and Libertarian Robert Harris’ 2.9 percent. Tinderholt bested Patrick in the Republican primary.
This district, in central west Arlington, includes Pantego and Dalworthington Gardens. It stretches from Interstate 30 south to the Mansfield line and from Loop 820 east to Collins Street.
State representative, District 95
Incumbent Democrat Nicole Collier drew 75.9 percent of the vote to Republican Albert G. McDaniel’s 24.1 percent.
This district includes some of Fort Worth’s neediest neighborhoods, along with downtown and Forest Hill, Everman and Edgecliff Village
State representative, District 96
Incumbent Republican Bill Zedler picked up 80.7 percent of the vote to Libertarian Quinn Eaker’s 19.3 percent.
The district includes parts of Arlington, Mansfield and Kennedale.
State representative, District 97
Incumbent Republican Craig Goldman garnered 81.6 percent of the vote to Libertarian Rod Wingo’s 18.4 percent.
The district includes Benbrook and Fort Worth neighborhoods such as the South Hulen corridor, Wedgwood and Candleridge.
State representative, District 101
Incumbent Democrat Chris Turner earned 84.5 percent of the vote to Libertarian Carl Nulsen’s 15.5 percent.
The district runs along Texas 360 and takes in east Arlington and the Tarrant County portion of Grand Prairie.