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Wentworth says he's staying put in Texas Senate

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Posted: Friday, December 17, 2010 12:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - There will be no special election to replace District 25 State Senator Jeff Wentworth, and a McQueeney man who made preparations to mount a campaign has had to stand down his forces - at least for now.

That's because, as is being widely reported in statewide news media, Wentworth, whose district stretches from Bexar to Travis County and includes all of Guadalupe and Comal counties, isn't going anywhere.

And former 12-year Bexar County state representative and McQueeney resident Alan Schoolcraft, who was readying himself for a hard, fast fight for the seat of the senior senator from San Antonio, now finds himself sitting on the sidelines.

Wentworth, an attorney and former Bexar County commissioner, became the subject of intense speculation when he was reportedly offered a senior administrative job at his alma mater, Texas A&M - the kind of job that would be difficult for any Aggie to turn down - this past July.

But Wentworth did turn the job down.

He'd already won the March primary and was headed into the general election with Libertarian Party opposition but with no Democrat in the race.

Leaving in July, Wentworth believed, gave them a shot at mounting a campaign, but not much of one in a six-county district regarded as heavily Republican.

What that would have meant, the senator said Thursday, was Republican Party county officials would have chosen the eventual winner.

"I had to decline it," Wentworth said. "I wanted the voters to replace me in a special election whenever I left - and not six Republicans meeting behind closed doors to choose the next Republican senator from District 25. That's not what I'm about, and that's not the way I wanted to leave the senate."

In the months since, Wentworth said he'd had no other offer from A&M.

Nonetheless, the political powers-that-be in Bexar County began aligning themselves for a potential special election much like the one just conducted in House District 44 in which nine candidates fought a short, intense race to succeed Wentworth's old friend, Edmund Kuempel. Ultimately, Kuempel's son, John, won that election in epic style Tuesday night, taking more than 65 percent of the votes cast in Guadalupe, Wilson and Gonzales counties.

Some big names were tossed around in the talk about who would replace Wentworth, should he go to A&M.

One, Schoolcraft, spent quite a bit of time and money to be ready for what he believed could be a short and intense run at the office. He organized a staff, hired consultants and began making campaign commercials.

Schoolcraft, who runs his family's half-century old real estate business in Universal City, isn't afraid of a fight.

At age 27, he took on Democrat legislator Al Brown in 1981, upsetting the incumbent and leading to a floor fight in the capitol that brought a special election.

In readying himself for this campaign, Schoolcraft hired his strategist from that race, Tom Quirk, and assembled a team that included Austin-based Baselice & Associates, campaign manager June Deason and fundraiser Janelle McArthur

All that came in spite of Wentworth's coy protests that he had no plans - and no pending job offer.

"Alan called, made an appointment, came by my office and said he was very interested in going back to Austin if I ever left," Wentworth recalled. "He gave me a copy of a news release, and said he'd release it unless I told him I didn't want him to."

Wentworth is no stranger to dealing with media or political matters, and he wasn't about to tell Schoolcraft whether to release his announcement or not.

"I told him to do whatever he thought he should do," Wentworth said.

Schoolcraft said he believed anyone who was serious about running for Wentworth's seat would have to get out in front and be prepared to work hard to stay there, and he wanted to make it plain he was ready to do what it takes - promising to spend half a million dollars of his own money or more if that's what it would take, because there would be scant time for fundraising.

Wentworth said he didn't understand why the issue of whether he would stay in the state senate had once again raised its head.

"The only thing I can think of is that someone started a rumor again lately in Austin about whether I was going back," Wentworth said.

"Yesterday I had three phone calls from media in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, and I'm getting more calls today. I've told everyone this is old news, and I have nothing new to report."

Wentworth has pre-filed 15 bills, and he's working on another 15 or 20 that are being drafted right now.

Among them are a measure that would allow concealed handguns on college campuses and a voter ID bill.

"I'll be raising my hand with everybody else on Jan. 11," Wentworth said.

Schoolcraft was philosophical Thursday. The groundwork he's already laid over the fall would help him, if say, an opening were to come up next year.

"I enjoyed serving in the legislature before, and was in a position in my life where I thought everything would have worked out nicely," Schoolcraft said. "I saw it as a potential opportunity, but since he's staying there, I have other challenges, and I'll operate my business and see what happens in the future. Who knows what he's going to do in the future?"


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