In Fort Worth, the battle for State Senate District 10 is shaping up to be one of the most competitive races of the year. The race to take over Wendy Davis’s current state Senate seat pits Democratic neighborhood leader Libby Willis against Republican Konni Burton.
Konni Burton, a Tea Party activist who lists campaigning for Ted Cruz as one of her accomplishments, is one of the most right-wing, dangerous candidates running for the Texas Legislature this year. Not only has she campaigned for Ted Cruz, but he has returned the favor and appeared at her campaign events as well. During the primary, Ted Cruz compared Burton to himself and called her “crazy”–as a compliment. That alone should set off enough red flags for anyone to question supporting her; when one of the most proudly ineffective members of the US Senate says you’re crazy like he is, you are doing a lot of things wrong.
Burton’s dangerous nature extends far beyond her enthusiastic support from Ted Cruz, though. For one thing, no state Senate candidate has taken as much money from predatory payday lenders as Konni Burton. According to publicly filed campaign finance reports, Konni Burton has taken $16,500 from payday lenders in 2014 alone. These predatory loans are trapping more and more Texans in a cycle of debt, and the payday loan industry is supported by both Rick Perry and Greg Abbott. Konni Burton’s choice to take money from an industry that profits from taking advantage of people undergoing financial distress reveals her disregard for vulnerable families in her district.
Additionally, Konni Burton has dodged questions about a proposed statewide fire code to help avoid tragedies like the deadly explosion in West last year. A report from the US Chemical Safety Board found that such a fire code could have made the explosion preventable, or at least could have been used to hold the operators of the fertilizer plant accountable after the fact. Konni Burton has dodged the question of requiring regulation using Tea Party rhetoric to avoid giving a straight answer.
Burton’s website reads like a list of Tea Party talking points. The landing page that appears before you can go onto the actual website is a pledge to “secure our border.” On the “Issues” page, Burton not only continues the anti-immigrant rhetoric, but proudly promises “to keep Texas tax dollars from going to Planned Parenthood,” “stand firm with gun owners at every opportunity,” and “oppose the false promises of Medicaid expansion and resist” the Affordable Care Act.
It’s probably because of her stances on the issues that Konni Burton is also a darling of the national Republican party. She appears on the Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) “Right Women, Right Now” (RWRN) initiative’s “Races to Watch” list, where they proudly boast that electing Burton could help Republicans gain a supermajority in the Texas Senate.
This is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of Burton’s candidacy. Despite efforts to get rid of it, the Texas Senate’s two-thirds rule remains in effect. The rule requires at least 21 votes to bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for debate. In the 83rd Legislative session, Democrats held 12 out of 31 seats, including Wendy Davis in SD-10, which allowed them to prevent many of the Senate’s most conservative bills from passing. As we have pointed out, “the Democratic senators’ ability to maintain any semblance of power in the upcoming 84th Legislative session hangs on their ability to maintain these twelve seats.”
If Konni Burton were to win the SD-10 seat, the Republican agenda would be one step closer to making it through Texas completely unchecked. This means Republicans could continue to jeopardize women’s health, disregard equal pay, and endanger Texans by refusing to expand Medicaid. Poverty would rise and public safety would be at risk as Republicans put their political needs and those of their corporate cronies ahead of Texans.
In 2013, SD-10 proved to be a source of strength for Texas Democrats as Wendy Davis stood up for Texas women in her filibuster, and then as a candidate for governor. In the hands of Konni Burton, the seat would be yet another pawn in the hands of Tea Party interests.
Fortunately, SD-10 voters have another strong choice to represent them in the Texas Senate. Libby Willis has been endorsed by EMILY’s List and statewide law enforcement. (And Burnt Orange Report!) She has promised to fight for equal pay and public education, and Wendy Davis herself has said that Willis “brings to the voters of Senate District 10 someone who will continue representing the interests of all families.” Libby Willis has also been leading Konni Burton in fundraising, and has the support of Battleground Texas, who produced the video below:
The race for SD-10 is one of the most important of this year, and it’s easy to see why. With someone like Konni Burton in office, Republicans would be one step closer to using the Texas Senate to push an extreme conservative agenda on Texans unchecked. Konni Burton’s radical Tea Party agenda is dangerous for SD-10’s constituents, and for Texans.