NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Candidates Battle For A Likely Runoff In Texas District 97

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Fort Worth, TX – Bill Zeeble KERA reporter: Six Republicans and one Democrat are battling to represent the majority Republican district that includes Benbrook, Fort Worth's TCU area, the zoo, & down Hulen Boulevard. It also takes in Edgecliff Village and southwest Tarrant County right to the border. Veteran Fort Worth Star Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy says one single issue is driving this race, at least among Republicans; the state's controversial Speaker of the House, Tom Craddick.

Bud Kennedy, columnist, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: You have prominent candidates who are very much pro-Craddick. Two have pledged support of Craddick, and you have a prominent Republican candidate who used to hold the seat, who said he's reluctant to support Craddick at this time.

Zeeble: That candidate's Bob Leonard, says Kennedy, who held this seat before Representative Mowery did. It goes without saying that lone Democratic candidate Dan Barrett dislikes Craddick too. Kennedy adds the more conservative, younger Republicans, including Craig Goldman, a former aide to Senator Phil Gramm, and Jeff Humber, a business executive, back Craddick.

Kennedy: Fort Worth is mixed on Craddick. A lot of resistance in the house has come from Tarrant County. The feeling is the speaker hasn't been good for Tarrant county.

Zeeble: The issue of Speaker Craddick may interest political insiders, but Texas Christian University political science professor Jim Riddlesperger isn't sure it even pops up on the public's radar screen.

Jim Riddlesperger, Political Science Professor, TCU: It's kind of hard for me to think that'll be an issue that'll resonate among voters.

Zeeble: Riddlesperger sees no big issues in this race, except for the numerous candidates wishing to win it. He expects, campaign funds, endorsements, & experience may determine the winner. Bob Leonard has that experience, says Riddlesperger, after filling the seat in the 1970's. Anna Mowery's endorsed him, and he's part of the Leonard department store family, with a respected community name. But Riddlesperger isn't sure that'll make much difference.

Riddlesperger: He has been out for so long that there are very few people living in District 97 who remember the time he was a member of the state legislature. So he's running anew.

Zeeble: As for money, Bud Kennedy says Craig Goldman is the race's leading fundraiser.

Kennedy: So you have a 30-ish starter-kit fiscal conservative against a 50-ish former state representative who was pro gun and pro life and had a conservative voting record and wants to make a comeback.
Zeeble: The only Democrat in the race, Dan Barret, is also known, because he ran against Mowrey last election, when he garnered 42 percent of the vote. And given that this is a special election, Riddlesperger says everyone expects a runoff.

Riddlesperger: The question is who will be the the top 2 vote getters? Because Dan Barret is the only Democrat, many believe he will be in the runoff.

Zeeble: And if he makes the runoff next Tuesday, the entire state will be watching, as Texas Democrats hope to regain control of the house they lost, thanks in part to Tom Craddick's hard fought efforts. The other candidates in the District 97 House race include Chris Hatch, James Dean Schull, and Mark Shelton. Bill Zeeble KERA news.