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2010: An Opponent for Birdwell [Updated]

Democratic officials in Senate District 22 got together in a Hillsboro restaurant Thursday evening and nominated John Cullar to run for the state Senate seat now held by Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury.

Waco Democrat John Cullar

Democratic officials in Senate District 22 got together in a Hillsboro restaurant Thursday evening and nominated John Cullar to run for the state Senate seat now held by Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury. Cullar is a Waco attorney, former McLennan County Democratic chairman (until earlier this year) and a former member of the State Democratic Executive Committee.

The nomination gives Waco another opportunity to try to hold its place as the political anchor of the 10-county district. That used to be a clear role based on its population, but the counties on the northern end of the district that edge the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex have more people and more voters now. Birdwell's success in this year's special election is partly a testament to that population shift. And it's a consequential issue this year: Lawmakers will redraw the political maps in 2011, after the census numbers are available, and Waco leaders fear they'll lose more clout if those cartographers don't include someone who lives in McLennan County.

The Democrats didn't have a candidate in that race until now and wouldn't have one at all if Kip Averitt hadn't resigned from the seat, and the race, after winning the Republican nomination in March. Birdwell won the special election for the remainder of his term. But because he quit after winning the nomination, the law allows both parties to appoint nominees for the general election. No Democrat ran in that party's March primary, but the Averitt resignation gave them another shot.

Update (Aug 6, 9:31 a.m.):
This morning, Cullar filed suit in Fort Worth challenging Birdwell's eligibility, saying he hasn't resided in Texas for the required five years. Cullar filed that complaint directly with the Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. And in a press release, he made this comment:

“I’m going to run a comprehensive campaign, and part of that is analyzing if my opponent is eligible to represent the people of SD 22. I look forward to seeing that question resolved by the court. In the meantime, I’ll be out talking with the voters of the district I’ve been proud to call home for 26 years.”
Update (Aug 6, 4:44 p.m.):
Late this afternoon, Birdwell issued a statement in response to the court filing:

“I am honored to be serving the citizens of SD 22 as their state senator, and look forward to the opportunity to serve a full term after November. The matters raised in this lawsuit have been addressed in previous challenges, yet the Secretary of State affirmed my candidacy, a respected appellate judge affirmed my residency status, and most importantly almost 60% of the voters cast their vote for me. I have met all residency requirements, and believe we will receive a fair hearing from the respected members of the Court of Appeals. I look forward to putting these accusations to bed.”

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