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Joel Burns

Burns not running in SD10


Joel Burns

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns announced on Wednesday that he will not run to succeed Wendy Davis in the state Senate.

Burns, who replaced Davis on the City Council in 2007, had emerged as a top Democratic contender for the Senate seat after Davis announced her bid for governor earlier this month. But in an email to supporters on Wednesday, first reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Burns said he will not enter the race.

“After many weeks of thought and consideration, my next steps have became very clear to me,” Burns wrote in the email, which he also posted on his Facebook page. “And I want to share with you — my many friends, neighbors and supporters — my decision: Quite simply, the job I most want is the one I already have.”

Burns was my first choice to run for the seat, so I’m disappointed by this. There are other candidates that had been looking at this, so I’m sure someone will step up and run. It was never going to be an easy hold, and if Joel Burns didn’t think he was the right candidate at this time, then so be it.

One more thing:

The fight to replace Davis will be one of the state’s most closely watched races next year. Without her seat, which Davis has won twice in a swing district that leans Republican, Democrats would be left with only 11 seats in the Senate, bringing Republicans within one seat of the two-thirds majority needed in the chamber to bring legislation to the floor for a vote.

The original version of this story said that the loss of Davis’ seat would give the Rs the numbers they needed to overcome the two thirds rule, assuming it still means something in 2015. What Davis gave the Dems was a cushion, but even if we lose her seat the numbers are still there to block bills as needed, and if allowed. I’ve seen some confusion on this point elsewhere, so let me assert my authority here as someone who has a degree in math: 11/31 > 1/3. Put another way, 20/31 < 2/3. It's not that complicated.

The race is also on in SD10

Now that Sen. Wendy Davis will abandon her re-election in SD10 to run for Governor, Democrats need to find a candidate that might be able to hold her seat.

Joel Burns

The Republican field is already crowded with four candidates in the race. Names of potential Democratic candidates are swirling, but no contender has officially announced. And since Fort Worth will be home base for Davis’ newly-announced gubernatorial campaign, insiders say the eventual Democratic candidate for the Senate seat could ride her campaign coattails.

Among Democrats, Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns’ name has come up as a potential candidate to succeed Davis. Burns previously said he thought about running for the seat but that it wasn’t open yet.

Davis is officially in the gubernatorial race now, but Burns said he remains undecided about whether he’ll jump into the Senate race despite urging from friends and supporters.

“I will be talking with my family, constituents and with Tarrant County business and community leaders over the coming days and weeks about our future together and how we can best keep strong representation for Tarrant County neighborhoods while moving Texas forward,” Burns said in a statement.

Burns is a longtime friend of Davis and succeeded her on the city council in 2008 when she stepped down to run for the Senate. His partner, J.D. Angle, is a longtime Davis consultant and is expected to run her gubernatorial campaign.

Deborah Peoples, Tarrant County Democratic Party chairwoman, said others have expressed interest in the race, but the potential contenders were waiting for Davis’ announcement.

I’m already in the tank for Burns, but if there are other good Democrats who’d like to take a shot at it, I say go for it. Just keep it positive and on topic in the primary, that’s all I ask. Fort Worth Weekly suggests Burns may be leaning towards a run. I suspect that he and many other will-they-or-won’t-they candidates will be announcing decisions soon.

Who would run for SD10 if Wendy runs for Governor?

The DMN considers the possibilities.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Several Democratic contenders have emerged. Topping the list is Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns, who acknowledged last week that he’s been approached by operatives about a possible campaign to replace Davis.

“It’s something that I’ve thought about,” Burns said. “But until she decides what she wants to do, I can’t give it more than that.”

Burns acknowledged that Davis is a special candidate.

She beat Republican incumbent Kim Brimer for the seat in 2008. Four years later, she won a close race over former Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth.

But Burns thinks that if he gets into the race, he can meld a winning coalition of minorities, women and moderates.

“Anyone who has shown a history of forging coalitions and can talk about the main street issues facing Texans has a leg up,” he said.

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, has been mentioned frequently as a possible contender, even though he doesn’t live in the Senate district. He would have to move to mount a campaign.

But Turner, a veteran of former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost’s political tree, says he’s not interested in replacing Davis.

“I’m running for re-election to the House,” Turner said. “I decided that a long time ago, and that hasn’t changed.”

Turner’s wife, Democratic strategist Lisa Turner, has also been mentioned as a possible successor, but she said she’s not interested in running.

But there are other interesting options for Democrats.

Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, is in her first term in the House and is considered one of the local party’s rising stars. She could appeal to some of the same constituencies that powered Davis to victory.

Collier could not be reached for comment.

Former Fort Worth City Council member Kathleen Hicks could also mount a campaign.

In 2012, she lost the Democratic primary for the newly created 33rd Congressional District to Marc Veasey. And this spring, she failed in a council comeback bid. But Hicks has a recognizable name and connections in the district.

Some Democrats in Davis’ inner circle, however, are upset that Hicks supported former state Rep. Domingo Garcia of Dallas over Veasey in the 33rd District.

I’m on record saying that I’d like to see Joel Burns run, so I’m glad to see that people have talked to him about it. Rep. Collier would be a good option as well. Like Sen. Davis, she’s an Annie’s List candidate. I like Rep. Turner and he had a fine session this year, but I think he might be best served staying in the House and building up seniority. As long as someone good runs and there isn’t a nasty primary, I’ll be happy. Holding this seat will be tough, but it was always going to be a challenge. I’ve been clear about this being the downside risk of Sen. Davis running for Governor, and it’s equally clear by now that everyone is willing to take that risk. Well, everyone except possibly Sen. Davis herself – we don’t know that yet, though we do hear things. I do agree with PDiddie that the decision is bigger than just being about Sen. Wendy Davis. The universe is telling her to run for Governor. I don’t think she’ll be able to resist, and I’m not sure there’s a good case that she should try.

Davis reportedly running for Governor

At least according to Robert Miller.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Credible sources tell me that Sen. Wendy Davis will run for Governor in 2014 and not seek reelection to Texas Senate District 10. It will set up a high stakes match-up with Attorney General Greg Abbott in the November 4, 2014, general election.

Sen. Davis believes that she faces a tough race regardless of whether she seeks reelection to the Senate or runs for Governor. In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry received 52.7% of the vote in SD 10 compared to 44.6% for Mayor Bill White. In 2012, Gov. Romney defeated President Obama in SD 10 53.3% to 45.4%.

Sen. Davis has been elected twice in SD 10, so it clearly is a winnable race — but tough. Sen. Davis is now a national figure for Texas Democrats, and a senate reelection run would draw in national money both for and against her. If she is going to have a tough nationalized race, she would prefer it be for Governor.

The last Democrat to be elected Texas Governor was Ann Richards in 1990. Since then, the Democratic nominee has received the following percentage of the vote: 1994 – Richards 45.7%; 1998 – Mauro 31.2%; 2002 – Sanchez 40%; 2006 – Bell 29.8%; 2010 – White 42.3%. Public Policy Polling released a poll July 2, 2013, showing General Abbott leading Sen. Davis 48% to 40%, and the same poll had Gov. Perry leading Sen. Davis 53% to 39%. Texas is still a deeply red state, and running for Governor as a Democrat in Texas is a steep uphill climb.

Nevertheless, there are upsides for Sen. Davis. The stars could align, however improbably, and she could conceivably win. Alternatively, assuming she runs a credible race, a cabinet or subcabinet position would probably be available to her under President Obama or in a future Clinton administration. Lastly, a strong showing in 2014 would position her as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for Governor or U.S. Senator in 2018, assuming the Democrats have a better shot with each passing election cycle.

However, the real winner of Sen. Davis’ decision to run for Governor are Texas Democrats. Without her, they have no credible statewide candidate in 2014. With her, they will likely find other credible Democrats willing to step out and run statewide. She will also provide a race that Battleground Texas, the Obama campaign’s effort to turn Texas blue, can organize around. Finally, she will likely boost Democratic turnout in urban counties such as Dallas and Harris helping down ballot Democrats running for county and judicial offices.

If true, you can save yourself a stamp. I don’t know who Robert has been talking to and obviously I don’t know if he’s heard correct information or not, but I basically agree with his reasoning here. I’ve said before that Sen. Davis’ higher profile is an asset for a statewide run, but not necessarily one for a re-election effort. The possibility of a position within the Obama and/or Clinton administrations in the event she falls short addresses one of the concerns I’d had about her running now, which is that there isn’t a statewide office (save for Railroad Commissioner) on the ballot in 2016, so Davis would need something to keep her politically engaged and visible at least to Democratic activists until 2018. It’s one thing to run and lose, and another thing entirely for her to take a gig after running and losing that makes her less likely to run again and/or less viable as a candidate for the next opportunity.

Everyone has their own take on what Sen. Davis will need to win this race. I’ll just reiterate my position that the first step is dealing with the fact that Democratic turnout in off-year elections has been basically flat since 2002. That’s good news in the sense that there’s tons of potential for growth, but obviously that represents a lot of work to be done, and not much time in which to do it. Barring a 2006 level of Republican turnout or an unprecedented Democratic wave, Davis is going to have to draw some votes away from Greg Abbott in order to win. The good news there, as Michael Li has pointed out, is that early poll results show Davis doing better among Anglo voters than Bill White did in 2010, which suggests that the race may be closer than it first looks. I’m not going to put too much stock in that right now – there will be plenty more polls if indeed Davis runs – but it is something to keep in mind. When more polls do come out, remember that Republican turnout has been a moving target over the past three elections, and Democratic turnout is likely to be higher than in years past. That’s going to make pollsters’ assumptions about the composite of the electorate a big factor in reading poll results. Nobody knows right now what the makeup of 2014 voters will be – we’ll all be guessing.

Miller mentions that with Davis’ entry, other credible Dems will likely take a shot at the other offices as well; TDP Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has alluded to such in the past as well. I’m hopeful that may include folks like Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Sen. Rodney Ellis, neither of whom would have to give up their seats in 2014, for Lt. Gov. and Attorney General, respectively. I don’t know who else may be out there, but as with John Cook popping up to run for Land Commissioner, I’m sure there are folks many of us hadn’t been thinking about out there.

Davis has said she’ll make her official announcement in the next two weeks, so we’ll know soon enough if he’s got the scoop or not. In the meantime, I’ll repeat my suggestion that we recruit Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns, who succeeded Davis on that body, to run to succeed her here as well. Texas Politics and Texpatriate have more.

How about Wendy for Lite Guv?

Robert Miller makes a pretty good case.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Governor General Abbott appears unbeatable by Democrat or Republican. Sen. Davis, as a Harvard-trained lawyer, could run for the open office of Texas Attorney General. However, that does not appear to be a particularly exciting, nor necessarily winnable, down ballot matchup.

The marquee matchup would be to run for Lieutenant Governor, who serves as Presiding Officer of the Texas Senate. A fierce contest has commenced for the Republican nomination, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst being challenged by Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Polling shows that today Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is headed towards a Republican primary runoff.

Harris County is the largest bloc of Republican voters in the state, and Sen. Patrick is well-known and very popular with these voters. The margins Sen. Patrick will roll up in Harris County arguably could give him a spot in the runoff. The purest of the pure partisans show up for primary runoffs, and those are more likely to be Sen. Patrick radio listeners (in Harris County) and voters.

This would bring us a Davis vs. Patrick contest for Lt. Governor in November 2014, a stark contrast indeed. One of the most liberal senators vs. one of the most conservative; pro-choice vs. pro-life; woman vs. man; and, at this point, woman vs. a possibly all male Republican statewide slate. One mistake by Sen. Patrick and Sen. Davis has a shot.

The irony is she would then preside over a Senate probably comprised of 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats – the Republicans would have an excellent opportunity to pick up Davis’ senate seat. All of the Lt. Governor’s powers are derived from the rules of the Senate, which are adopted by a simple majority vote (16 out of 31). Wouldn’t the Republicans simply strip her of these powers?

My crystal ball gets cloudy that far out. But it wouldn’t matter from Davis’ perspective. If they stripped her of the traditional powers of the office, it would simply magnify her prominence and amplify her voice.

My thinking has evolved. I now believe it makes political sense for Sen. Davis to run statewide for Lt. Governor in 2014. As she hits the newsstands in August, look for #Wendymania to continue trending.

It should be noted that there’s probably as great a chance that the Senate would strip the Lite Guv of its traditional powers if Dan Patrick wins as there is if Davis wins. As we know, Patrick has made his share of enemies among his Republican colleagues. It wouldn’t take too many more to dislike or distrust him to make that a real possibility.

Another thing to consider is that Davis would be much closer to parity with the Republican Lite Guv hopefuls on the fundraising end. She has over $1 million in the bank after her latest haul, all of which came in the last two weeks of June. Patrick has $2.1 million on hand, Jerry Patterson has $1.3 million, Todd Staples claims $3 million, and Dewhurst has $1.7 million, though of course he can write his own check. All of them will have to spend a chunk of their money in a sure-to-be-nasty-and-substance-free primary.

It’s an interesting possibility to consider. This would still leave the question of who runs for Governor unsettled. Robert’s observation about the potentially all-male Republican slate – Debra Medina is one of the candidates for Comptroller, and Stefani Carter is a candidate for Railroad Commissioner, but beyond that it’s a big sausage-fest – is further evidence to me that Cecile Richards ought to jump in. I hope Davis and Richards have at least had a conversation or two about who might want to do what. EoW makes an eloquent case for Davis as gubernatorial candidate that you should read as well, but as things stand right now I’m leaning in Miller’s direction. (William McKinzie also thinks Sen. Davis should run for Governor, though he comes at it from a different angle.)

One last thing: If Sen. Davis does run statewide, whether for Governor or Lt. Governor, the person I want to see run to succeed her in the Senate is the same person that succeeded her on Fort Worth City Council, and that’s Joel Burns. Holding her seat would indeed be very difficult, but Burns would be the kind of candidate that would inspire enthusiasm and generate fundraising. Who’s with me on this?

TPA announces its Texan of the Year for 2010

While this was a pretty lousy year for progressive politics in terms of election results, it was in many ways a great year for progressive achievements, from the passage of the Affordable Care Act to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Along the way, many individuals and groups distinguished themselves through their words and deeds. The Texas Progressive Alliance, as it has done since 2006, recognizes these people and their accomplishments through its annual Texan of the Year selection. This year, the TPA has named Fort Worth City Council Member Joel Burns for this honor. From our press release:

Burns, Fort Worth’s District 9 City Councilman, received international attention and acclaim in October after delivering a speech at a Forth Worth City Council meeting concerning suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth as part of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign.

In his speech, Burns spoke eloquently and emotionally about his experiences as a teen facing bullying in Crowley because of his sexual orientation. Burns’ speech, which became an internet sensation, resulted in interviews on CNN, NPR’s All Things Considered, an in-studio interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, and an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

“Joel Burns’ speech did more to raise awareness of the difficulties LGBT youth in Texas face on a daily basis perhaps more than anything else this year,” said Vince Leibowitz, Chair of the Texas Progressive Alliance. “His courageous action in delivering this speech was worthy of recognition, and progressives everywhere should salute him,” Leibowitz continued.

Here’s the video, in case you haven’t seen it:

Joel Burns, we in the TPA salute you.

The TPA also honors Administrator for Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Texas DREAMers as Honorable Mentions.

Armendariz was recognized for cracking down on polluters in Texas in spite of immense political pressure from state leaders and corporations. Armendariz issued the first Emergency Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order against a natural gas operator in Parker County which caused high levels of methane in private water wells.

The Texas DREAMers–students and activists involved in supporting the DREAM Act through peaceful protest and other means, were recognized for their work in Texas which has included everything from organizing phone banks to call and persuade U.S. Senators, to staging sit-ins and demonstrations at the offices of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The group has even staged hunger strikes in support of its efforts.

Armendariz and the EPA are of course also engaged in a huge struggle against basically the entire state government to actually enforce the laws that protect us from all kinds of pollution. As for the DREAMers, I must confess that I’m completely unable to comprehend why we wouldn’t welcome them with open arms. (For those of you who are about to say something about “getting in line”, please note that the line in question is now up to 22 years long. You think maybe we ought to do something about that?) We in the TPA stand with them in their fight to make our state and our country a better place. Our thanks and our congratulations to all our honorees.