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With Denton County’s Rep. Burgess bowing out, US House race ignites as more candidates file

A child bikes past the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 2022.
Shuran Huang
/
Texas Tribune file photo
A child bikes past the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 2022.

The Dec. 11 deadline to file for the March 5 primaries is fast approaching.

Several candidates have already filed and announced their intentions to run for the 26th Congressional District after Rep. Michael Burgess announced that he would not seek reelection.

Burgess, a longtime obstetrician, has represented District 26 in the U.S. House since 2003.

The district, which resembles a jigsaw puzzle piece on the state’s political map due to redistricting, covers a large portion of Denton County, including the southwestern part of Denton as well as Lewisville, Corinth, Highland Village and Little Elm. It also includes all of Cooke County and portions of Wise and Tarrant counties.

Several Republicans have filed for Burgess’ seat, and one Democrat has considered it while another filed for it.

Here’s a rundown of candidates so far, based on filings with the Federal Elections Commission, for a race that no doubt will be heated in early March.

Republican candidates

Scott Armey, former Denton County judgeFormer Denton County Judge Scott Armey, a private wealth adviser, announced this week that he is once again seeking the seat his father, Dick Armey, held for nine terms.

The elder Armey was a GOP icon, served as the House majority leader and co-authored the book Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto. He’s also known locally for his legal battle over a half-built water tower in Bartonville.

Scott Armey sought his father’s seat in 2002 and was considered a shoo-in but was beaten by Burgess, whom D Magazine called “an obscure gynecologist who voted Democratic during the Clinton years,” in 2002.

As D Magazine reported, people in Denton County didn’t think Armey, who was in his early 30s then, was ready for the big leagues.

When Armey was county judge, he also began approving developers’ use of special taxing districts in the early 2000s to turn horse country into suburbia. It drew the ire of then-state Sen. Jane Nelson who, in 2001, penned a fiery letter to then-Attorney General John Cornyn, as D Magazine reported in the 2002 profile.

“The legislature never intended for county development districts, fresh water supply districts, and other utility districts to be used as a mechanism for subdivision developers to create their own governing boards with access to millions upon millions of public tax dollars but no accountability to taxpayers,” Nelson wrote in the 2001 letter. “At the very least, these practices constitute gross manipulations of law.”

“Anybody who’s got a complaint about [special taxing] districts needs to talk to their state reps and legislators,” Armey told D Magazine then. “They are the people who created the laws and enacted them. We talked until we were blue in the face to get them to tighten up those laws [and] close the loopholes, and they wouldn’t act.”

Two decades later, Armey believes he’s ready for his father’s old seat.

Brandon Gill, conservative website founder

Brandon Gill is the founder of the DC Enquirer, a conservative website that aggregates content. Media Bias/Fact Check has rated DC Enquirer as right-biased, noting that the outlet uses articles and headlines that “are highly emotional that appear designed to anger conservatives to induce article sharing.”

Gill is a recent transplant to Flower Mound who registered to vote in Texas earlier this year. He isn’t as familiar with the area as other candidates on the list but does support former President Donald Trump for president.

Burt Thakur, Jeopardy!

champion

Burt Thakur’s motto is “Texas first. America first,” according to his campaign website.

Thakur, a Navy veteran, became a Jeopardy! champion in November 2020. He called it a childhood dream, and as he said on the show that December:

“My grandfather was my hero. He was the one who raised me. And after he died — I was very young — there was a giant hole in my heart because I felt so alone for so long. [Winning that first game] was the first time I remembered what his face looked like, in decades. So, if you want to know what Alex Trebek is to me, he’s — in a sense — the guy who brought my grandfather back into my life.”

Thakur appeared on the far-right One America News Network in 2022, when he was running in the primaries for California’s 25th Congressional District.

Thakur had filed for a neighboring Texas congressional seat last spring but switched to run for U.S. House District 26 three days after Burgess’ announcement, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Clint Burgess, former county constable

Though Clint Burgess isn’t related to Rep. Burgess, the candidate’s last name could give him a shot in this race.

Clint Burgess is a former constable who represented Precinct 7 in Tarrant County from the early 2000s until 2020. He ran for reelection in November 2020 but lost in the general election to Sandra Lee, a Democrat who received nearly 10,000 more votes than Burgess, according to Ballotpedia.org.

A Mansfield High School graduate, Burgess is also an Air Force veteran and served three tours of duty in Saudi Arabia and two tours in Turkey as a surveillance operator over Iraq after Operation Desert Storm, according to a December 2009 profile in Mansfield Now, a community magazine.

Luisa Del Rosal, executive director

Luisa Del Rosal’s campaign team points out on her campaign website that she grew up in a place “where there was no rule of law and where individual ambition and talent are not given free reign”

According to her campaign website, Del Rosal legally immigrated to Texas from Mexico and obtained her U.S. citizenship. She later enrolled at Southern Methodist University, where she earned dual bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in higher education policy and leadership.

A former executive director of SMU’s Tower Center for Public Policy and International Affairs, Del Rosal is a small business owner, a coach and consultant for sales and fundraising and a contributing columnist at The Dallas Morning News.

Del Rosal is a founding member of the Texas Latino-Jewish Leadership Council. She also has campaign experience. In 2020, she sought the Texas House District 114 seat but lost to John Turner, a Democrat.

Vladimir de Franceschi, securities lawyer

Vladimir de Franceschi, a veteran corporate and securities lawyer, entered the District 26 race shortly before Thanksgiving. The candidate listed an address to a Lewisville strip mall with the Federal Election Commission.

The newcomer to Texas politics received his political science degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, a master’s degree in comparative politics from UC San Diego and a doctorate from Stanford Law School.

He was also a global director at the Founder Institute, a startup accelerator, and mentored startups from the U.S. and around the world, according to his profile on Liu, Chen & Hoffman LLP’s website.

Democratic candidates

Ernest Lineberger Robinson III, the lone Democrat

Ernest Lineberger Robinson III’s name appeared on the Federal Election Commission website Thursday evening.

Robinson filed as a Democrat.

Kelvin Leaphart, financial aid director

Newcomer Kelvin Leaphart had planned to seek the District 26 seat, made an announcement on social media and even met with the Robson Ranch Democratic Club in July. He told the club that he worked in higher education as a financial director.

He also served as a civil affairs specialist in the U.S. Army Reserves.

In a July 15 post, the Robson Ranch Democratic Club wrote that Leaphart wanted to reform campaign financing and focus on college for all, criminal justice reform, responsible government spending and universal health care.

A month later, Leaphart announced on social media that he was no longer seeking office.

“After careful consideration and discussions with party officials, I have come to the conclusion that my vision and platform may not align with what the party is currently seeking in a candidate,” Leaphart wrote in an Aug. 28 prepared statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.