By AMAN BATHEJA - Star-Telegram Staff Writer - Wed, Dec. 26, 2007
For political junkies, the Texas House District 97 race is a dream come true. There's been plenty of drama so far, and the race will still keep on going for months.
Democrat Dan Barrett beat Republican Mark Shelton in last week's runoff, stunning many who saw the southwest Tarrant County district as a Republican stronghold. Some of the same men who unsuccessfully vied for the seat in November are preparing to try again.
Barrett will have to be re-elected in 2008 to represent the district in the next regularly scheduled legislative session, which starts in January 2009.
Candidates have until Jan. 2 to file for the March 4 primary. Here's a look at how the race is shaping up so far:
Dan Barrett: Barrett, a lawyer, was elected to the District 97 seat in Dec. 18's runoff, winning 52 percent of the vote after leading the November special election with 32 percent of the vote. Throughout the campaign, he said his priority was removing Tom Craddick as speaker of the Texas House. He is not expected to face a challenger in the March Democratic primary.
Bob Leonard: Leonard, a lawyer, represented District 97 from 1977 to 1988, when he resigned to become a lobbyist for Texans for Equity in Workers Compensation. He received 19 percent of the vote in the November special election. Leonard led his five Republican opponents in early voting, but Election Day voting put Shelton into the runoff. An anonymous automated phone call, or robocall, that went out to voters Election Day morning and criticized Leonard may have been a factor. Leonard said he suspects that whoever orchestrated the call was a supporter of House Speaker Tom Craddick, to whom Leonard declined to pledge his support.
James Schull: The Benbrook City Councilman, a lawyer, received 2 percent of the vote in the November special election. Schull declared himself neutral on Craddick during the campaign.
Mark Shelton: The medical director of infectious diseases at Cook Children's Medical Center advanced to the runoff but lost to Barrett. He focused his campaign largely on being tough on illegal immigration and pledged his support to Craddick, who appeared with him at an Austin fundraiser. Shelton repeatedly denied involvement in the Election Day robocall.
Craig Goldman, a Republican insurance agent who has worked for the political operations of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, has said he may still enter the race.
Craddick is an issue
Craddick, R-Midland, is now a central issue in the campaign after Barrett's victory. In the wake of the vote, Leonard has changed his tune, asserting that every Republican candidate's decision on whether to pledge support to Craddick will be a deciding factor in the March primary. "I think there's a clear call for new leadership," Leonard said. "If the Republicans don't take back the Republican Party, the Democrats will take over."
Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram
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