With a commanding lead, Republican Brian Birdwell beat David Sibley, a former Republican state senator, in the special runoff election in Senate District 22.
What Birdwell lacked in experience, he made up for in narrative. He was working in the Pentagon on 9/11, was burned badly when terrorists crashed an airliner into the building, recovered after a long convalescence and is now a public speaker and, with his wife, the operator of a nonprofit called Face the Fire that combines a Christian ministry with aid for burn victims and their families. He nearly ran for the Texas House a few years ago — against Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland — and decided against it.
While a loss surely stings, the political game is old hat for Sibley, a former state senator, prosecutor, mayor, city councilman, lawyer, dentist and, most recently, lobbyist. He had the backing of former President George W. Bush, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis,and state Reps. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, among others. He also had the backing of his former aide, outgoing state Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, the remainder of whose term will be served by Birdwell.
While the election may have ended, the excitement is only beginning. Averitt is still the Republican nominee on the November ballot to determine who will represent the district in January and beyond. Averitt has indicated he might not give that slot up to Birdwell (even if it means returning to the Senate), because Averitt does not believe that Birdwell has met the constitutionally mandated five-year state residency requirement — a question that has been raised, but never legally challenged, throughout the race.
In April, a retired appeals court judge issued a declaratory judgment that Birdwell met the five-year state residency requirement. But the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that legal experts questioned the ruling, citing the fact that only one side of the case — Birdwell's — was presented.