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Campaign Chatter

Chris Harris and Will Hartnett say they won't be back, but the horde of candidates for state and federal legislative seats is growing.

State Rep. Will Hartnett (r), R-Dallas, listens to a question from the back mike as State Rep. Rene' Oliveira (l), D-Brownsville, waits on May 6, 2011.

Arlington's Chris Harris became the fourth Republican state senator to say he won't seek reelection next year. He had a challenger in state Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, and there were strong rumors that one of the wealthier business lobby groups — Texans for Lawsuit Reform — would come hunting him. Anderson, a freshman, probably had his best chance in using Harris as a foil; without the incumbent in the race, he's got a much more difficult contest in front of him. Start here: Victor Vandergriff is likely to get in. He's Harris' pick, for what it's worth, and he's got a known name: He's on the North Texas Transportation Authority, there's a car dealership with his name on it, and his dad, Tom Vandergriff, was mayor of Arlington, a U.S. Congressman, and Tarrant County Judge.

State Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, confirmed the rumors that he won't be back. He noted in his announcement that he was one of the few votes against college tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants when that bill — now haunting the governor's presidential campaign — passed in 2001.

Dr. Stuart Spitzer announced he'll run for HD-4, where freshman Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, is the incumbent. Spitzer is still gearing up; the first blog entry on his website when we looked was headlined "Why I'm prolife"; the text that followed was "I'm prolife because blah blah blah."

Add Dr. Steve Nguyen, a Republican optometrist from Irving, to the list of people considering a run in HD-115 — the north Dallas County district where Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, decided not to run for reelection. Nguyen would be running against Bennett Ratliff, a Coppell school board member and the son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff. Irving attorney Matt Rinaldi is also in that race.

Dr. Charles Schwertner, the Georgetown state rep now running for the Texas Senate, got an early endorsement from the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC. He's running in SD-5, where Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, announced plans to quit after this term. Schwertner also released a list of current former mayors, public officials and other locals who've endorsed his campaign, and fellow House members whose districts overlap the Senate district. Two more: He got an endorsement from Steve Hotze's Conservative Republicans of Texas, and another from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians PAC.

TLR jumped in early in SD-11, too, endorsing Rep. Larry Taylor's bid to succeed Mike Jackson, R-La Porte (Jackson is running for Congress).

And they jumped into a race where two incumbents are battling, saying they'll be behind Hillister Republican James White instead of Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton of Mauriceville. White is a freshman, and one of only two Black Republicans in the House.

Ryan Sitton, R-Friendswood, will run for Taylor's seat in the House. He's an engineer and CEO and founder of Pinnacle Asset Integrity Services.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, who'll stand for election for the first time next year, says he's got the support of 12 of the 19 Republicans in the Texas Senate. So far, he's in the quiet race next year; the candidates are lining up for the other, open spot on the RRC.

Josh Caesar, a McKinney Republican, says he'll run for Congress in CD-3 — the district now represented by U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano.

Former Chambers County Commissioner Bill Wallace, a Republican, will run for the House in HD-23, where Galveston Democrat Craig Eiland is the incumbent.

Pencil in Hector Enriquez in El Paso's HD-75, where Chente Quintanilla, D-Tornillo, is the incumbent. Quintanilla is talking openly about running for county commissioner, and Enriquez is making the rounds in preparation for a run.

Cleburne Mayor Justin Hewlett will run for Congress in CD-25, a crowded district that has an incumbent — Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin — who's going to run in the district next door. That leaves an open seat with more than a half-dozen Republicans seeking the nomination. Hewlett was on the Cleburne school board before running for mayor.

This week's list of incumbents who say they'll seek another term next year includes: Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie; Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville; Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas; and Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston.

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