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Many Legislative Incumbents, Including Rep. Lon Burnam and Sen. John Carona, Lose Across Texas


by: Joseph Vogas

Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 06:00 PM CST



Progressive champion Lon Burnam will not return to Austin as a voting Representative in 2015
Several incumbent members of the Texas Legislature lost on Tuesday night and, despite filing and campaigning for re-election, will not be returning to Austin as an elected official in 2015. Among the casualties are two Democratic State Representatives, one Republican State Senator, and six Republican State Representatives.

The biggest loss of the night for progressives was in Tarrant County's House District 90. There, progressive Representative Lon Burnam (D) lost to challenger Ramon Romero by 111 votes. Burnam has served in the legislature since 1996 and has been known as the conscience and heart of the Democratic caucus. Burnam has been an advocate for the most progressive position possible on prison reform, drug reform, energy policy, education policy, and health care reform. In the last session, Burnam led the effort to find a way to expand Medicaid in Texas by partnering with moderate Republican members. Ramon Romero, who beat Burnam, was supported by out of state Charter school groups. Over time, HD-90 shifted from being a coalition district to one dominated by Hispanic residents. A Texas legislature without Lon Burnam will certainly be a less progressive place.

After the jump, read about the other Texas legislators who will not be returning.

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Senate District 16, Sen. John Carona (R) loses to Don Huffines (R)
The other headline grabbing defeat also came from the North Texas Metroplex. After self funding millions of dollars, Sen. John Carona lost to another self-funding millionaire, Don Huffines. Carona had previously said mainstream Republicans needed to stand up to TEA Party candidates. Don Huffines had the support of TEA Party leaders Glen Beck, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz. The margin of defeat was 635 votes out of 49,637 cast or 1.28%.

House District 1, Rep. George Lavender (R) loses to Gary VanDeaver (R)
The one bright spot for those hoping for a more progressive legislature, sophomore incumbent George Lavender lost to Gary VanDeaver. VanDeaver was superintendent of the New Boston ISD and had the support of the pro-public education Texas Parent PAC. He beat the TEA Party incumbent by 1,502 votes or 8.68%.

House District 4, Rep. Lance Gooden (R) loses to Stuart Spitzer (R)
Sophomore incumbent and insurance salesman, Lance Gooden lost to Deacon Stuart Sptizer by 342 votes or 2.07%. The already conservative Gooden had earned the ire of the TEA Party while Spitzer was viewed as the TEA Party preferred candidate.

House District 55, Rep. Ralph Sheffield (R) loses to Molly White (R)
Earlier, I wondered if the wrong Sheffield was being targeted by conservatives. Well, with the results in "the wrong" Sheffield has lost. Sheffield who has served since 2008 lost to anti-abortion activatist Molly White by 691 votes or 7.44%. Sheffield accused White of running a negative campaign and of being an extreme, conservative who would not be able to govern effectively.

House District 76, Rep. Naomi Gonzalez (D) fails to make Democratic Runoff
In a three person race, sophomore incumbent Naomi Gonzalez failed to make the runoff. Gonzalez, who beat incumbent Rep. Norma Chavez (D) in 2010 went on to campaign against fellow Democrat Joe Moody and was arrested during session for DWI. While progressives do not have much to criticize when it comes to Rep. Gonzalez's voting record, these actions are unacceptable for good government and party activists. Proceeding to the May runoff is former Rep. Norma Chavez and Burnt Orange Report's endorsed candidate Cesar Blanco, who lead with 43.69% of the vote.

House District 94, Rep. Diane Patrick (R) loses to Tony Tinderholt (R)
Rep. Patrick, a former member of the Texas State Board of Education, was known as a champion for higher education in Texas. A fixture of Tarrant County politics, she served in the legislature since 2006. The University of Texas at Arlington is notably worried about losing their advocate in Austin. Tony Tinderholt, an endorsed candidate of Empower Texans, won by 1,471 votes or 10.89%.

House District 105, Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R) loses to former Rep. Rodney Anderson (R)
House District 105 is one of the most competitive legislative seats for the general election in all of Texas. Harper-Brown, who served since 2002, lost to the TEA Party preferred candidate, Rodney Anderson, by 358 votes or 5.46%. Anderson beat Democrat Kirk England in 2010 only to see his district disappear in 2012's redistricting. A strong Democrat, who will be decided in a May runoff, will challenge Anderson in the general election.

House District 115, Bennett Ratliff (R) loses to Matt Rinaldi (R)
Another major blow to public education, freshman Bennett Ratliff fell by 92 votes or 1.12% to TEA party favorite Matt Rinaldi. This was the closest race featuring an incumbent legislator on primary night, 2014.

Possibly to be defeated later, Rep. Stefani Carter (R) of District 102 will be in a May runoff. More will be written on this race later. Overall, the Texas legislature had a net shift to the right when it came to the March, 2014 primary.



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Enough of the Lon Burnam hagiography (1.00 / 1)

We learn in the article that Burnam was the "conscious" of the Texas House, whatever that means.

The truth about Burnam was not that he was the consensus choice of a "coalition" district.  Lon Burnam held his seat since 1996 because he carried the votes of dwindling Anglos and African-Americans in his inner-city district at the expense of the huge Hispanic majority.

In 1996, he ran a gay-baiting campaign complete with anonymous flyers asking why his opponent, young single attorney Francisco Hernandez' only community involvement was with HIV and Aids organizations.  His supporters and he guffawed about the "f*ggot Francisco."  Hernandez became engaged to a Dutch national before the campaign started and Lon told people she was a mail order bride hired by the candidate's father to cover his son's shameful sexuality.  K.T. and Francisco are married with four children and ironically, rumors persist about Lon's orientation (in George Costanza-style I offer--if true "not that there is anything wrong with that").

Lon won the runoff with African American mail in ballots combined with Anglo votes in harshly polarized voting.

His next serious opponent, Dr. Carlos Vasquez, was similarly the victim of Lon's African American ballot machinery, narrowly losing by 158 votes.  Burnam trashed Vasquez calling him every name in the book attacking his hefty contributions by TLR (sure that's fair).

Two years later, Saint Lon brokered a deal with Texans for Lawsuit reform requesting that they not fund his next opponent and they gave him a symbolic $500 dollar check to say "we cool."  I wonder what Lon offered them in exchange for getting taken off the hit list?  This group that Lon called an evil GOP front group when they were funding Vasquez.

In the race against entrepreneur Ramon Romero the Hispanics wised up to the ballot-by-mail operations of Burnam and pursued their own Hispanic absentee mail ballots.  In response, Burnam sent Spanish autodialers to Hispanic seniors to scare them and suppress their votes.  

According to the poor Spanish in these recorded messages if anyone tries to get you to sign anything at your door, they are "trying to steal your vote."  No such messages went to African American seniors.  Burnam paid operatives called "Vote Writers" have much different standards when it comes to African American seniors.  Let's just say that the laws are not scrupulously followed.

Desperate against Romero, he mailed vicious attacks trying to link the respected businessman to the Latin Kings street gang (yeah, I know ...)  Get this, because at a Sportsbar / Restaurant he owned they had a zero tolerance policy on shenanigans and any gang related violence and they called the police at any signs of trouble.  So one of the first businesses built in anyones' memory in a troubled neighborhood of SE Fort Worth, an upscale restaurant and sports bar in Burnam's mailers became the known headquarters of the Latin Kings gang.  And Ramon Romero, their gang leader.

Voter rejected the ridiculous Burnam attacks and despite stark racially-polarized voting, this time the Hispanics prevailed anyway.  

So long Lon. You may have had strong progressive political stances, but you maintained your position by old-fashioned Dixie-crat tactics and fearmongering. Now the largest County in the State of Texas to have never elected a Hispanic, has finally done so.  In 2014.


"Put the jam on the lower shelf where the little fellow can reach it." Sen. Ralph Yarborough


Thank you for pointing out my spelling error (0.00 / 0)
I have corrected it, thank you.

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