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Wentworth faces unexpected rival in GOP runoff

by REEVE HAMILTON

Sleep is a precious commodity for Donna Campbell these days. Even as she seeks to unseat longtime state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, much of her time is still devoted to her work as an emergency room physician. It is not unheard of for Campbell to plow through a series of campaign events after finishing a shift at 6 a.m.

Her work , she says, keeps her grounded and helps hone her message. “In the emergency room, I see how our resources are drained from the illegals that come in, and I see how people game our Medicaid system,” she said.

The Republican primary in Senate District 25, which includes portions of six counties stretching from northern San Antonio to southern Austin, is the only one in the Senate that has yet to be decided. A July 31 runoff was a likely outcome for the three-way race, but conventional wisdom held that it would be between Wentworth and Elizabeth Ames Jones, the well-funded former railroad commissioner.

In the primary, the candidates practically split the vote in thirds, despite the huge discrepancy in the amount of money spent by each campaign. Wentworth, who, at $727,568, outspent Campbell by about four to one, finished on top. Jones, who had the backing of the powerful Texans for Lawsuit Reform’s political action committee and who spent $1,754,310, nearly 10 times what Campbell did, was last.

Now Campbell, who many anticipated would be an also-ran, is the focus of those hoping to unseat the notoriously independent-minded incumbent. After making the runoff, Campbell said she would not accept the same political action money that had fueled much of the Jones campaign. “This is not Round 2 of what happened in the last race,” she said. “I’m not picking up anyone else’s battle.”

The fight between Wentworth and Jones was markedly tense, culminating in a defamation suit filed by the incumbent. Both Campbell and Wentworth said they anticipate a more collegial runoff race.

But Wentworth said that he expects that TLR will exert its influence. Campbell will still take money directly from the wealthy individuals who support the organization. “It looks to me like she will take TLR money, but it just won’t be identified as TLR PAC money,” he said.

He said he had previously focused his efforts in Bexar County, which he split with Jones, who hails from the same neighborhood. “I need to put those people back together again,” he said of San Antonio’s business community members — many of whom backed Jones — who do not want control of the seat to shift to someone from a different part of the district.

He said he is devoting more time to the district’s other counties, including the northern counties where Campbell benefits from name ID picked up during her first political effort: a failed 2010 challenge to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

Although she has seen an increase in donations, Campbell said she does not plan to change the message that has gotten her this far.

“I feel God’s wind behind my sails,” she said. “We have a great grassroots movement, and that’s what did it.”

REEVE HAMILTON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Wentworth faces unexpected rival in GOP runoff"

#1 Comment By Duane Force On 06/22/2012 @ 12:57 pm

Oh my….would not want to be under someone’s care in the ER who views me as a drain on resources or as one who games the Medicaid system. For goodness sake, these are HER PATIENTS she’s talking about. Geez

#2 Comment By James Clements On 06/22/2012 @ 5:11 pm

Duane

You’ve either missed the point or you’re simply trying to make a disparaging remark about Dr. Campbell. It’s obvious you don’t know Dr. Campbell because she is one of the most dedicated Dr’s in any ER. Dr. Campbell is a Christian Lady and a caring Doctor that has given her services freely traveling to Africa dozens of times with the Christian Eye Ministry freely providing Eye Surgery to hundreds of needy people that had no means to pay for her medical care.

Dr. Campbell would never turn away a patient in need of Medical care. Her oath of service to her medical profession would be a breath of fresh air to the Texas Legislature. Dr. Campbell would care for every patient with the same professionalism and dedication to saving lives.

On the other hand maybe you are one of those illegal aliens that knows they can come in at any time and get free medical services that are a real drain on our medical resources that all Texas citizens have to pay for, or maybe you’re just another liberal gaming the Medicaid system.

Like I said You don’t know Dr. Campbell and you are just trying to game the system yourself.

#3 Comment By Duane Force On 06/22/2012 @ 7:45 pm

Mr. Clements,

It was the good doctor who made the comments about “illegals”, etc., not me. Don’t know why you would want to politicize all this.

#4 Comment By Intrepid On 06/23/2012 @ 1:29 am

The liberals just have a hard time separating reality from their ideology.

#5 Comment By Keith Cunningham On 06/23/2012 @ 6:03 am

and conservatives don’t?

#6 Comment By James Clements On 06/23/2012 @ 3:23 pm

Duane:
It’s all about politics, everything in life is about politics. Yes these are her patients and she will care for them regardless of their legal status. If they are here illegally then they are stealing from the system and those of us that work and pay taxes are paying for the illegals that are gaming the system. They are a drain on Americas medical system and the Good Doctor sees the problem yet she gives them the same medical attention that she would give to you whether you are an illegal or a medicaid fraud case.

Keith:
Most conservatives (unlike liberals) can separate reality from ideology. We don’t live in a pipe-dream world of social equality where we work to pay for socialist liberals that don’t. We don’t have an entitlement attitude. We appreciate that we can enjoy the benefits of our labors in a free country.

So Duane if you want to criticize Dr. Campbell for pointing out the reality of the worlds problems then you’re obviously not looking for solutions to our problems your just trying to disparage the Good Doctor for pointing out that you’re gaming the system.

#7 Comment By James Clements On 06/23/2012 @ 3:27 pm

Intrepid

You’re spot on my friend!

…”First you get the facts and then you distort them any way you please”…
Mark Twain

It’s the liberals mantra.

Jim

#8 Comment By Winchester On 06/23/2012 @ 8:58 pm

She is so dedicated that she just moved into this senatorial district.

#9 Comment By Winchester On 06/23/2012 @ 9:02 pm

Mr. Clements, either prove that Mr. Force is gaming the system (your post 6/23 3:23 PM) or shut up.

#10 Comment By Keith Cunningham On 06/23/2012 @ 10:02 pm

HA! Texas is about as “conservative” and “small government” a state as you wanna get (on paper at least) yet I see no end of our “conservative small government Republicans” getting ever more involved in our business – from anti-smoking laws to public school steroid testing to tax breaks for corporations (I suppose welfare for business is not an “entitlement” in the conservative world), to red light cameras, to keeping gambling illegal because its “immoral” (except for bingo, of course, because we wouldn’t want to make the elderly angry, they vote en masse), to Kay Bailey sponsoring bills to subsidy Amtrak to the tune of several billion dollars, to Rick Perry spending $10,000 a month on his rental property, to anti-tanning laws to mandatory blood draws on our highways, to repressive drug prohibition.

Way to keep shrinking the reach of government into our lives conservatives.

Last I checked all these things came from and under the watch of Republicans in our fair state. To me this pretty much sounds like conservatives – who claim all the time that they are “small government” – are fine with their ideology until it meets with the reality of leaving people alone who they don’t find acceptable or they can buy some political favor with the suburbs or perhaps there is simply a buck to be made.

In my humble opinion, all you people who buy into this liberal/conservative (false) dichotomy as it plays out in our current two party system are sheep being led skipping along happily wagging your tails to the tune of some bad bubble gum pop song (or maybe Ted Nugent?)…so please, unless you are saying Republicans are not conservative, can we just put the whole thing to rest?

#11 Comment By Duane Force On 06/24/2012 @ 2:44 pm

Mr. Clements, so now you’re going to lecture me on life’s lessons? How pretentious. Besides which, you’re really boring me now.