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In Tarrant County, Little Separates House Hopefuls

Two state House races in Tarrant County will be decided in the July 31 runoff elections. The runoffs will feature two Republicans facing off in House District 91 and a pair of Democrats in House District 95.

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The once-crowded race for four open House seats in Tarrant County thinned out after the May 29 primary election.

The county’s candidates for state representative will participate in two runoff elections on July 31: one for House District 91, between Republicans Stephanie Klick and Kenneth Sapp, and another for House District 95, between Democrats Nicole Collier and Jesse Gaines.

Because no Democratic or third-party candidate filed to run in District 91, the winner in that race will replace state Rep. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who is running to succeed state Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington.

Klick and Sapp showed little separation on the issues in the primary. Both support Gov. Rick Perry’s recent budget plan, strongly back gun rights and supported Texas' abortion-sonogram law.

“The issues are pretty much the same,” Sapp said. “In my experience, the difference is execution.”

Sapp, a North Richland Hills city councilman and former mayor pro tem, received 39.9 percent of the vote in the primary, while Klick, who most recently chaired the Tarrant County Republican Party, received 31.9 percent.

Sapp said he has received the support of the two candidates who were eliminated in the primary, former North Richland Hills Mayor Charles Scoma and Lady Theresa Thombs, a real estate agent and missionary. He added that his grassroots campaign has contacted more than 17,000 potential voters.

“We’re well-positioned to run the campaign we need to run,” Sapp said. “We’ll just continue to do the things that have made us successful.”

Klick has received endorsements from groups like DFW Conservative Voters, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Young Conservatives of Texas and the Texas Alliance for Life.

A former nurse, Klick said health care is one of the most important issues to her constituents. She said President Obama's health care reform plan is “riddled with waste, fraud and abuse,” and that along with repealing that plan, the state must do a better job of solving health care problems on its own.

“We have as a state not done a good job of confronting [health care] fraud up front,” Klick said.

Further south, the winner of the District 95 Democratic race will move on to face Republican Monte Mitchell in November's general election, and the winner there will replace state Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who is seeking election to the U.S. House in Texas’ 33rd District.

Gaines, a lawyer, is positioning himself for an uphill battle. “I’m running as the underdog; I’m not well-funded,” said Gaines, who received 38.4 percent of the vote in May. His opponent, Collier, received 48.2 percent of the vote. Gaines said he hurt himself early by waiting until March to file his candidacy papers.

Gaines said his experience with the redistricting process — which he worked on as a representative for the NAACP — will help him over the next month. The state is currently using interim district maps that may be changed again in the next legislative session.

“I am a 30-years resident of District 95, I have worked the elected officials and I have worked with the appointed officials,” Gaines said. “I think in the final analysis that will give me the edge.”

Collier, who is also a lawyer, is relying on her personal history to carry her through the runoff.

“Besides the fact that I’m a woman,” Collier said of the difference between her and Gaines, “I’m the only one in the race that had two babies by the time I was 18.”

Collier said she worked to put herself through college and law school while raising two children, and later to open her own law practice.

“I always keep going," she said. "I never give up."

Both Collier and Gaines have stressed job creation and education funding as critical issues. Collier has been endorsed by the Tarrant County Central Labor Council, the AFL-CIO and Annie’s List, a statewide PAC dedicated to electing more Democratic women to office. Gaines has been endorsed by the Fort Worth Professional Fire Fighters Association, as well as by his former primary opponent Dulani Masimini.

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