Dave Montgomery Austin Bureau
FORT WORTH – With state Sen. Wendy Davis officially running for governor, the race to succeed her in Senate District 10 is expected to begin taking shape over the next few weeks as potential candidates weigh their options. Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, one of the most frequently mentioned potential candidates on the Democratic side, said he expects to make a decision within the next couple of week after consulting with family, constituents and community leaders.
“I’m taking very seriously whether or not this is right thing for me and my family and the right thing for Fort Worth and Tarrant County,” Burns said. Former Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr told the Business Press on Friday that he has been asked to consider the race but has “not given it serious consideration.” “I’ve had a number of people mention it to me,” said Barr, 71. “ I think it would be a great privilege to serve there but I’m going to have to think a long time before I jump into that.” He later added, “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” and said he would definitely not run if Burns became a candidate.
Barr, a government relations consultant, served as mayor from 1996-2003, and is currently chairman of the North Texas Regional Tollway Authority. Four Republicans were in the race before Davis announced and Republican officials believe the field could further widen, raising prospects for a bruising primary. The candidates now in the race are former State Rep. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth, who ran against Davis in 2012; Arlington school board trustee Tony Pompa; Tea Party leader Konni Burton and businessman Mark Skinner. State Republican Chairman Steve Munisteri said he knows of “at least two other very serious potential candidates” but is not at liberty to identify them until they announce their decision. Former Tarrant County Democratic Chairman Steve Maxwell, who is co-chair of a candidate recruitment committee that was formed when Davis became a potential gubernatorial contender, said Burns has consistently been considered a leading Democratic contender to succeed Davis.
“As soon as that announcement was made yesterday, I started getting calls about when is Joel Burns going to make his announcement official,” Maxwell said. Maxwell said some potential candidates are waiting to see what Burns will do and may choose to back away in the interest of party harmony if he elects to jump into the race.
Key considerations for potential candidates in both parties include the prospect of having to raise millions of dollars in contributions and slogging through more than 13 months of hard-fought campaigning in what will be one of the state’s high-profile races next year. Republicans plan to make the legislative race a top priority as they try to reclaim a district that Davis wrested from a long-time GOP incumbent in 2008. Democrats will fight equally hard to keep it. Davis and Shelton spent more than $7 million combined in the 2012 race, the most expensive in the state. Burns said Friday that he would expect to spend upwards of $3 million if he decides to climb into the race. “Wendy certainly had the consensus of everybody and she’s going to be hard to replace,” said Maxwell. “Whoever gets in (to the race) would never have that broad-base of support. They’re going to have to earn it.”
The district, which includes most of southern Tarrant County, was once considered a reliable Republican seat but has become a swing district with the rapid growth of Hispanic and African-American voters. Tarrant County Democratic Chairwoman Deborah Peoples said there are “any number of good Democratic candidates” who could possibly enter the race. “One of the things I’m excited about is that there is no dearth of good candidates,” she said, adding that she wants to see a strong woman candidate in the race. Names of potential candidates circulating among Democrats include Justice of the Peace Lisa Woodard, attorney Tom Williams, former city councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, defense attorney Terri Moore, and neighborhood preservationist Libby Willis. Williams, contacted by the Business Press earlier this week, downplayed speculation about his potential candidacy. “ I don’t see myself doing that,” he said. The three Democrats who represent Tarrant Country – Reps. Lon Burnam and Nicole Collier of Fort Worth and Chris Turner of Grand Prairie – have also been mentioned for the race but have said previously they are focused on running for re-election.