Rep. Joe Barton’s decision not to seek re-election has his seat in Congress has set up a scramble by Democrats and Republications eager to win his 6th District seat.
Among the group of eight candidates who had filed by the end of this past week, is Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, Barton’s former chief of staff and a former Arlington City Councilman and mayor pro-tem.
Wright is one of three Republicans and five Democrats seeking the seat that Barton has held since 1985. Barton announced on Nov. 30 that he would not seek re-election following the flap over nude photos of him that appeared online a week earlier.
Barton, 68, one of the latest in a series of high-profile men who have been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct. Barton was not accused of harassment but the photos and sexually suggestive messages were shared by someone who he was intimately involved with while still married.
Wright said he never considered challenging Barton but when Ennis Republican announced his intention of not running again, he decided to jump into the Republican primary race.
“No one could have anticipated what happened with Joe Barton,” said Wright, 64. “It all happened so quickly so now it’s going to be a sprint to the primary.”
Barton’s decision and announcement gave prospective candidates less than two weeks to file for the Congressional seat before the Dec. 11 filing deadline.
Wright resigned his position as tax assessor-collector shortly after Barton’s announcement, creating another scramble for candidates to file for tax assessor-collector position. The filing deadline for that race is also Dec. 11.
Since Barton resigned during the filing period for the primary, the tax-assessor collector race could be added to the ballot without the need for a special election, according to Tarrant County officials.
By filing for the seat in Congress, Wright automatically resigned as tax assessor-collector, according to Marc Flake, spokesman for the Tarrant County Commissioners Court.
But Wright is continuing to serve is his position and may remain there until a successor is picked by voters in the November general election.
“The Texas Constitution requires him to serve until a replacement is named,” Flake said.
A similar situation occurred for Wright when he became tax assessor-collector. His predecessor, Betsy Price, resigned to run for mayor of Fort Worth in February 2011. After she was elected, commissioners appointed Wright to fill the unexpired position until a winner was chosen in the 2012 election. Wright ran for the seat and won that year.
In this situation, Wright said he was informed that state law prohibits commissioners from appointing a replacement for him because he has not served half of his current term. He was re-elected last November and sworn into office in January.
A replacement will have to be chosen by voters in an election, he said.
The Texas Secretary of State’s office did not respond to an inquiry about the situation.
A sixth generation resident of Tarrant County, Wright, is the most high-profile candidate in the race for the 6th District seat. He has a long record of public and community service.
He identifies himself as a conservative who supports tax reform and government transparency. He made national new by adding the official motto of the U.S., “in God We Trust” to tax statements and envelopes. An opponent of red light cameras, he refused to block vehicle registrations due to red light camera fines.
Other Republican candidates for the 6th District seat are Deborah Gagliardi of Mansfield and J.K. “Jake” Ellzey of Midlothian. Democrats in the race are Jana Lynne Sanchez, John W. Duncan, Justin Snider, Levii(cq) R. Shocklee and Ruby Faye Woolridge, all of Arlington.
The district covers parts of Tarrant County and all of Ellis and Navarro counties.
Prospective candidates who have designated a treasurer in the Tarrant County Tax-Assessor race are Olliephine Anderson, Wendy Burgess and Chris Nettles. None have officially filed.