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Burgess Battles Armey in GOP Runoff

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: Dr. Michael Burgess says this race turned nasty over Easter, when Scott Armey mailed a flier that lied about his character and record. It called the obstetrician-gynecologist a liberal Democrat for voting in Democratic primaries in the early 90's. Armey also accused Burgess of being soft on gun rights and abortion. Burgess counters that he, not his opponent, is a member of the NRA, has been a state Republican convention delegate, and is pro-life.

Burgess: I was rated by the Texas Right to Life website as a pro-life candidate. I support president Bush's pro-life position and oppose taxpayer funding of abortion and human cloning. I'll go one step further. I oppose Congressional cloning. (laughter)

Zeeble: Burgess also cites recent Denton Record-Chronicle and Dallas Morning News stories, saying Armey used his elected office to steer lucrative county contracts to friends. Armey denies any wrongdoing.

Scott Armey, Republican candidate, Congressional District 26: My concern is, both papers have endorsed my opponent. What they reported on were items they reported on when they happened years ago. And now, they're re-reporting it. But the fact is, I remain focused in this campaign. Talking about issues, who I am, I have a decade of service to the citizens of Denton County and I think my record is positive and I continue to get my message out that I'm a proven conservative.

Zeeble: Armey says as a commissioner and county judge, he's worked to make Denton's tax rate the lowest in the Metroplex. Burgess shares Armey's tax-cutting philosophy, but says his top issue is a national patient's bill of rights backed by President Bush. He believes Congress needs a doctor. Writer Harvey Kronberg, who edits and publishes the Quorum Report about Texas politics, says the odds favor Armey, even though the candidate has weaknesses.

Harvey Kronberg, Quorum Report editor and publisher: The amazing thing to me is Scott Armey wasn't able to, despite his name identity through his father and as a county judge, he wasn't able to win outright. The majority of voters voted against him.

Zeeble: Because this race could be close, both Burgess and Armey have pursued key endorsements.

Phil Gramm radio ads: "I'm senator Phil Gramm. In the runoff for the 26th Congressional District, we've got two excellent candidates. But I believe there is a difference. And there is a clear choice. And that clear choice is Scott Armey."

Zeeble: Again, Harvey Kronberg:

Harvey Kronberg: The fact that you have Phil Gramm endorsing Scott Armey, being offset by Senator Jane Nelson doing ads endorsing Burgess, I would think this would neutralize the liberal Democrat argument to some extent.

Zeeble: Other local Republicans have lent their names to Burgess's campaign. Former District 26 candidate Keith Self - who came in third with 22% of the vote, says Burgess is the only good choice.

Keith Self: Scott Armey is showing his true character. I believe his empire is crumbling around him as people become more aware of his record, and just how poor it's been in the county.

Zeeble: There's a lot at stake in Tuesday's race. Analysts say the victor will almost surely take the Congressional seat this fall. Scott Armey, though, remains calmly confident he'll win next. Michael Burgess says the same. Both say if they lose, they'll support Republican nominees. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.