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Pierson, Turner Seek Return Engagement in HD-101 Primary Race

A three-person HD-101 Democratic primary in Tarrant County features two former state representatives who can't stop swiping at each other and a fake string of emails that have been called "Machiavellian."

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Paula Pierson and Chris Turner were two rare winners for Tarrant County Democrats — but their tenures were short-lived.

Both unseated Arlington-area Republicans in the state House — Pierson in 2006, Turner in 2008. In a county where the Republican primary is often the only game in town, Turner and Pierson gave embattled local Democrats hope.

But Pierson and Turner lost their seats in the 2010 GOP wave. Now they, along with small business owner Vickie Barnett, are running to represent District 101, a newly drawn Democratic-leaning district in Tarrant County.

The winner of the primary will face Libertarian Carl Nulsen in November.

Pierson, a real estate agent and former Arlington City Council member, served two sessions in the House. Turner served as campaign manager for former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, and now works in public relations.

Turner and Pierson have both made criticism of last year’s state cuts to education funding a key point of their campaigns. Barnett wants to pass legislation that would lead to “better employment opportunities, sound health care policy, and transportation laws that help the average working-class family achieve the fruits of the American dream.”

Lawmakers drew a new district in southeast Tarrant County last year because of the area’s recent population growth. Pierson, who previously represented a larger portion of the new district, touts here ties to the region. More than half of it used to be her former House district. About a third of the district overlaps with a portion of southeast Arlington that Turner used to represent.

"He's not known because he's not Arlington," Pierson said. "He married his wife and moved into her house, but he was in Waco most of that time running Chet's campaign. He's a good guy, but he's an unknown entity."

Turner said he’s lived in Arlington since 1999 and has never suggested otherwise.

"I think it’s unfortunate that Paula is questioning my roots in Arlington because, the fact is, we both have roots here," Turner said.

Turner counters that he’s the more Democratic candidate because Pierson has voted in a handful of Republican primaries over the years.

"Voters have a clear choice between someone who is a lifelong Democrat and someone who is not," Turner said. "A solidly Democratic district deserves a solidly Democratic representative."

Pierson said she’s voted in Republican primaries in years when there were few if any contested Democratic primaries and there were certain Republican candidates she felt needed to be defeated.

"I’ve been fighting crazy before it had a name," Pierson said.

In the last week, the race has drawn attention for emails purportedly from a Turner campaign staffer that criticize Pierson and Barnett. Turner said the person claiming to be with his campaign is an imposter. The Lone Star Project, a Democratic group that has employed Turner’s wife, issued a statement highlighting evidence that suggests someone with Barnett’s campaign may be behind the fake emails.

Barnett described the episode as "attacks on me, my family, and campaign staff regarding despicable emails emanating from a source with no relationship to my campaign."

"I denounce such tactics as being ungodly, reprehensible and inconsistent with the values of hard working Texans," Barnett added. "These unwarranted attacks will not be ignored. Appropriate action is being considered."

In a statement, Pierson described Barnett as "a bright young woman who cares about our community. So, until there is evidence to the contrary, I am not going to question her or her campaign’s integrity. That being said, I call on whoever is responsible for these Machiavellian email games to stop immediately. It is a distraction and we don’t have time for it."

Turner said he has a lawyer who is looking into the incident and called on anyone with information regarding it to hand it over to law enforcement.

"Whoever is doing this, they’re very destructive to the process and doing a real disservice to the candidates," Turner said.

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