Weatherford Mayor Joe Tison, a Republican, announced his intent to represent District 61 in the Texas House of Representatives Monday.
“This fast-growing area needs a representative whose top priorities are the hard-working families and small business owners of Parker and Wise counties, not the partisan agendas of politicians in Austin,” Tison said in a statement.
Tison is expected to compete against Incumbent State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) in a race that pits two of Parker County’s best known and most powerful leaders against each other.
The Weatherford Democrat first reported Tison was considering a run for state office Nov. 13. Tison said he’s been asking for a lot of advice over the last two months.
“As I looked at the possibilities for representing the people in Parker and Wise Counties, it became pretty obvious to me that Phil King spends a lot of time and energy working on utility and telecommunications legislation in Austin,” Tison said Monday. “I believe that the residents of both Parker and Wise Counties, from what I hear, want someone who will spend time and energy working with them on the issues that we’re facing in this rapidly-growing area that we live in.”
Tison offered up Senate Bill 5, King’s landmark telecom deregulation bill, as an example of his frustration. He said the legislation impacted the City of Weatherford greatly, and that the original bill was designed to remove local control of franchise fees and utility right of way.
“Ultimately, it got amended, but we had to fight to get those amendments done,” Tison said. “I would have preferred to have been asked up front ... instead, we had the industry people coming to us, urging us to be supportive of it.”
On Monday, King said he was very surprised that Tison decided to run against him.
“He’s been a good friend and we’ve worked very closely together over the years,” King said. “My objective is going to be to not say bad things about Joe Tison, but to say good things about Phil King.”
King said he started hearing rumors about Tison three months ago in Austin, not Weatherford.
Tison is supported by Texas Parent PAC, a political action committee with deep pockets based in Austin.
King, considered one of the state’s leading conservative politicians, said Parent PAC started out primarily as a teachers union, but that the organization has since evolved into a group that recruits and funds candidates to run against conservatives.
All of the pro-public school incumbent candidates receiving Texas Parent PAC contributions and/or an endorsement won their general election races in 2006, and the Parent PAC endorsed 11 candidates who won open seats or in challenges to incumbents, according to the PAC’s Web site.
In 2006, several of the PAC’s winners replaced legislators who, like King, were considered closely allied with House Speaker Tom Craddick.
King serves as chairman of the House Regulated Industries committee, one of the most influential committees in the Texas Legislature.
Tison acknowledged the significant advisory role Texas Parent PAC played in his decision to run.
“They’ve been the people who answer my questions,” he said.
Tison, a former educator who started his career in the Aledo Independent School District and served as superintendent of the Weatherford Independent School District for more than a decade, has been mayor of Weatherford since 2000. His term as mayor is scheduled to end next spring.
During a recent conversation with King, Tison said both men agreed to run positive campaigns. Tison said he doesn’t have a political consultant yet, but plans to spend the month of December putting a campaign staff together and engineering a campaign strategy.
“I’ve just been asking a lot of questions and winging this on my own at this point,” he said.
Tison made his announcement on the first day of filing for a place on the Republican primary election ballot. Both candidates plan on officially filing later this month.
Tison’s decision to run represents the first competition King has encountered from a Republican opponent in 10 years of service to the State Legislature.
Primary elections are scheduled to take place March 4.
Charles Randolph, a Democrat living in Wise County, has also expressed interest in running for the District 61 seat.
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