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U.S. House 30 Democratic Primary Heats Up

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By Shawn Williams

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is fielding a couple of strong challenges from her left flank.  Barbara Mallory Caraway is a two term state representative offering voters experience while political newcomer Taj Clayton offers a fresh face and new vision.  Together, the three make up an intriguing field for the Democratic Primary in U.S. House District 30.

In 2010, Congresswoman Johnson was in the midst of a closely watched race that turned out to be not so closely contested. Johnson had received some negative press, Republican candidates nationwide were surging and pundits proclaimed her seat was vulnerable.

But Republican challenger Stephen Broden received only 22 percent of the votes and Johnson cruised to re-election as many of her Democratic colleagues were crushed under the weight of the Tea Party.  The challenges from within her own party could prove more formidable.

North Texas Congressional Districts From Federal Court Proposed Plan via The Texas Legislative Council -http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/redist/districts_proposed.html

Former Dallas NAACP branch president Casey Thomas says the congresswoman continues to receive high levels of support in District 30. “Congresswoman Johnson is still popular and has the power of incumbency,” Thomas said.  The former precinct chair says Johnson has delivered for her Southern Dallas and downtown constituents.  “Her popularity is due to her longevity and the resources that she has brought to her district and the city of Dallas. She will be very hard to beat,” he said.

But local Democratic strategist Renee Hartley thinks the challenges Johnson faces are part of a “very anti-incumbent mood across the country” as well as the result of a dysfunctional Congress.  “The mood of the electorate, redistricting, and what is for now a three-way race all add up to better odds for the challengers,” Hartley says.

“I Am Running On My Record”

Congresswoman Johnson kicked off her re-election bid at Southwest Center Mall last month. Dallas Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano and Councilmember Vonciel Jones Hill were among the 200 supporters that gathered.  Atkins called Johnson “the first lady of Dallas” and referenced her experience before endorsing her re-election.

“When you fight for something, you don’t want a rookie fighting for you,” he said. “We need someone who understands D.C. You don’t want to put a rookie in the game because they might make a mistake, and we can’t afford to make a mistake in November,” Atkins said.

Johnson has represented District 30 since 1993, and is the Ranking Member of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  At Southwest Center Mall, she trumpeted support from the highest office in the land. “I’m proud to tell you the President has endorsed me for re-election,” she said. “I’ve earned it. I stand with him, I have whispered in his ear. And I’ll tell you something: He is one of the brightest human beings I have ever met.”

“Fresh, New, Energetic Leadership”

Representative Caraway is touting her experience as well as her desire to bring “fresh, new, energetic leadership” to District 30.  She joined the Texas House of Representatives serving District 110 in 2006, winning a heated campaign against an incumbent who had been entrenched in the seat for more than a decade.

Caraway defeated Jesse W. Jones (first elected in 1990) in a tight Democratic Primary (50.87% to 49.13%) and was unchallenged in the general election.

In the Texas House, she serves on the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee as well as the Committee for Urban Affairs.  Prior to holding a state office, Caraway served four terms on the Dallas City Council, from 1993-2001.

Caraway, wife of Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway, spoke with Congresswoman Johnson as she was exploring the possibility of making a run at the U.S. House.  She doesn’t see her candidacy as an affront to the congresswoman.  In a recent interview with The Dallas Examiner, Caraway said she doesn’t consider her bid as a challenge to Johnson’s seat because the seat “belongs to the voters of District 30.”

“New Ideas, a New Approach, and a New Direction”

To many, newcomer Taj Clayton is an unknown, and that will need to change before the March 6, 2012, Texas Democratic Primary. Originally from Pennsylvania, he and his family relocated to North Texas in 1995. Clayton is a first-generation college graduate who received his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University.

Clayton is currently a lawyer at Fish & Richardson and has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Texas Super Lawyers magazine.  He’s a board member at the Dallas Children’s Theater Center and volunteers for KIPP Schools.
But this is his first election and he’s decided to start with a big one.

“Our community represents the greatest untapped resource in Texas. I’m running to make sure we reach our full potential,” Clayton said in a press release announcing his campaign. “For too long, people have been talking about lifting up our community, but we face the same problems year after year.”

Clayton has hired political strategist, Jason Stanford, as his general consultant and is pulling together a strong social media strategy.  His campaign website has been shared on Facebook more than 900 times and his Facebook fan page has received nearly 400 “likes”.

Renee Hartley points out that just because candidates have placed their names on the ballot with Congresswoman Johnson does not mean they are out to get her. “I think we do everyone a disservice when we talk about incumbent challenges in those terms,” says Hartley.  “I doubt that either of the challengers wants anything other than to make their case and let the voters decide on Election Day.

Jessica Huseman contributed to this story.

Candidate Websites

Barbara Mallory Caraway – barbaramallorycarawayforcongress.com

Taj Clayton – tajclayton.com

Eddie Bernice Johnson – ebj2012.com

  • http://phelps.donotremove.net Phelps

    “When you fight for something, you don’t want a rookie fighting for you,” he said. “We need someone who understands D.C. You don’t want to put a rookie in the game because they might make a mistake, and we can’t afford to make a mistake in November,” Atkins said.

    Since I expect nothing but graft and corruption from a Democratic seat (and only half as much from a Republican seat) I would much rather have a rookie robbing society than someone who “understands DC”.

  • Raleigh

    Congresswoman Johnson’s record of achievement is remarkable. she has delivered not only dollars for important projects in Dallas such as DFW Airport, Love Field, DART, Bridges and Highways but also for teachers and first responders… all of this adds up to JOBS in these tough economic times. Additionally Johnson has authored over 187 pieces of significant legislation.

    In contrast Caraway has been labeled ‘furniture’ for her lack of effectiveness in Austin in fact she was absent for most of the special session, and has authored perhaps 1 piece of legislation

    And who is Taj Clayton and what legislative experience does he bring, he has never even worked on the municipal level.

    My vote and my admiration is with Eddie Bernice Johnson.

  • TobyG

    Actually a quick look at Caraway’s record reveals that she has not even passed a single bill while she has been in Austin. The Dallas Morning News gave her a zero in the power index which measures a legislators effectiveness and leadership and Texas Monthly has labeled her one of the WORST Legislators of 2011. That is a remarkably bad record to run on, and we are supposed to choose to send her to Washington.

  • Sonoftexas30

    That makes no sense. You should raise your expectations and recognize what your fighting for. And in this time and age especially, if you aren’t fighting for defined improvement, you probably don’t care about fighting to keep Johnson in office.

  • Sonoftexas30

    Why is she wasting campaign donation dollars again?

    -”Texas Monthly has labeled her one of the WORST Legislators of 2011. That is a remarkably bad record to run on, and we are supposed to choose to send her to Washington.”

  • Eokpa

    A good orator/actor/actress will always leave a stage when the ovation is high.

    Beating EBJ will be a sweet victory and powerful statement for those that see public service as their birth right. All her claims of experience and having the President endorse her, are wash. No one was born a Congress person, they were ‘rookie’, once. So I don’t agree with Mr Atkins’ assertion. Rookie or not, District #30, will benefit from effective leadership; one that is driven to improve the lots of its mostly desperate constituents. The president’s endorsement is probably out of courtesy, as he will endorse anyone in his party. What matters is whether EBJ has delivered dividends to her constituents in ways that the common voter has benefited. Her Majesty EBJ, has never had any serious opponent, and that has invariably led to complacency in her approach to matters of collateral value in the district. District #30, has the highest unemployment rate in all of DFW congressional districts. Yet, praises are heaped on her. I think it time she steps aside and do something else. Make 2012 year to remember and vote EBJ out!!

  • Sonoftexas30

    The thankless job of a public servant is one most individuals aren’t cut out for. While most children nowadays aspire to dance like Lady Gaga, sing to the approval of an American Idol judge, and act like a brat on any one of the outrageous/trashy “reality” tv shows, EBJ sets an example for all the children of the Dallas area to follow.

    She exemplifies the type of self-sacrificial quality rooted in compassion and foresight quality rooted in education we all want in our public servants. This, as many of you know, is useless unless you actively pursue goals and attempt to legislate. Yes, this sometimes requires a bit of work and time, but that’s precisely why a public servant voluntarily puts themselves in such a position — I doubt it’s for all the constant scrutiny and vitriolic hatred they receive from the opposition.

    The fact is, no other public servant better embodies self-sacrifice and foresight than EBJ. One look at her career as a nurse (is there a more humanitarian trade?), her emphasis on educational reform (particularly in science and technology), and the nearly 200 pieces of legislation she has diligently put to task.

    Although the work EBJ does on a daily basis won’t capture the short-spanned attention of some reality tv loyalist, rest assure it will give that citizen and every other in District 30 better economic opportunity, a fighting chance at educational reform, and a constant example of self-sacrifice and foresight.

    Compare that to Mr. Clayton and Ms. Caraway, and they just don’t measure up, with all due respect.

  • http://twitter.com/BWAdetiba Bab W. Adetiba

    How will he provide “new leadership”? Has anyone seen Mr. Clayton? Town hall meetings? Website?

    How is he different from Johnson? Caraway?

    Where are these individuals that claim they want to run for the 30th district?

  • Letecia

    I visited http://www.carawayforcongress.com and that made up my mind.

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