July 14, 2008

Brimer May Have to Fight to Keep Seat

By Aman Batheja, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Jul. 14--While no politician is unbeatable, state senators may be as close to that as it gets in Texas.

In the last four years, only one of 25 state senators pursuing re-election in Texas did not win. Most coasted to victory.

That's why political observers are so intrigued by the race shaping up in Senate District 10, where Republican Sen. Kim Brimer of Fort Worth is running for a second term against Democrat Wendy Davis, a former Fort Worth City councilwoman.

Even before Brimer sued last week trying to knock Davis off the ballot, a host of factors had already turned the matchup into one of the most closely watched in the state.

"The demographics are widely believed to be shifting in that district," said Harvey Kronberg, who publishes the online Quorum Report for Austin insiders.

"You combine [Davis'] name ID with the shifting demographics, and it looks very competitive."

Texas Christian University political science professor Jim Riddlesperger said an influx of Hispanics and other Democratic-leaning groups into District 10, which includes part of Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield, Colleyville and other areas of south and northeast Tarrant County, suggests that Republican dominance is no longer a given.

"Whereas five or eight years ago, it would not have been a competitive district, it is becoming more competitive all the time," Riddlesperger said.

Longtime lawmaker

Brimer, a former Kennedale insurance agent, was first elected to the Legislature in 1989 to represent District 96 in the House. The district covered parts of south Arlington and south Fort Worth. Over 13 years in the House, Brimer rose to lead the House Business and Industry Committee and inspired talk in the late 1990s as a possible candidate for House speaker if the GOP gained a majority.

In 2001, Brimer was elected to represent Senate District 10. He is now on a number of Senate committees, including three -- the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, the Senate Administration Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Economic Development -- that he leads.

Veteran councilwoman

Davis, a lawyer and CEO of Republic Title's Fort Worth division, was first elected to the Fort Worth City Council in 1999. She represented District 9, which includes downtown, the medical district and the Texas Christian University area. Before announcing her resignation from the seat last year, Davis led the city's Central City Revitalization and Economic Development Committee and was on the Regional Transportation Council.

Davis said that in the race, she will focus especially on the economy and transportation. Brimer declined to comment for this article.

Outside groups

Both campaigns have faced accusations of having outside groups do their dirty work.

In January, three Fort Worth firefighters challenged Davis' eligibility to run because she filed for the seat before her replacement on the City Council had been sworn in. Davis and the Texas Democratic Party decried the challenge and said Brimer was behind the effort, noting that Brimer's campaign representative, Bryan Eppstein, was a consultant to the Fort Worth Firefighters Association and that the association had endorsed Brimer.

Brimer's campaign has consistently declined to comment on the firefighters' lawsuit or the charge from Davis' campaign that Brimer was behind it.

This month, Brimer filed a lawsuit very similar to the firefighters' challenge. A hearing is set for July 22.

Meanwhile, Davis' campaign effort has benefited from attacks on Brimer via e-mail from the Lone Star Project, a Washington-based political action committee that supports Texas Democrats. The group is led by Matt Angle, who is also treasurer of the Texas Democratic Trust, a group in Washington, D.C., that has donated millions of dollars to Texas Democratic candidates, most of it funded by Dallas trial lawyer Fred Baron.

Brimer's campaign has accused Angle of improperly using his federal political action committee on Davis' behalf. Angle's brother, J.D. Angle, is a consultant for Davis' campaign.

In one instance of perceived cooperation, days before Davis announced her resignation, Matt Angle released the results of a poll suggesting that Brimer is vulnerable.

Angle has said he doesn't work for Davis and hasn't coordinated his activities with her campaign.

Last week, Davis said: "I don't see Matt as any different than many of the voters I hope to represent. We do not have a formal relationship with Matt Angle."

Campaign cash

Both campaigns are required to file their next campaign finance report by Tuesday.

Their last reports, in January, showed Brimer with more than $1.1 million in cash on hand and Davis with more than $270,000.

Riddlesperger believes that Davis needs to show that she has been able to raise enough money this year to wage a serious campaign across a Senate district of over 700,000 residents.

"The key in these elections is not who has the most money but if both candidates have adequate money to run a good campaign," Riddlesperger said.

Kim Brimer Republican

Age: 63

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, Stephen F. Austin State University

Political experience: Has represented District 10 in the Texas Senate since 2003; served in the Texas House, 1989-2003

Other professional experience: Former insurance agency owner

Family: Wife, Janna Brimer, five children, nine grandchildren

Web site:www.kimbrimer.com

Wendy Davis Democrat

Age: 45

Education: Bachelor of Arts in English, Texas Christian University; law degree, Harvard Law School

Political experience: Fort Worth City Council, District 9, 1999-2008

Other professional experience: Chief executive, Fort Worth division of Republic Title

Family: Two daughters

Web site: wendydavisforsenate.com


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