Carlos Vasquez, Fort Worth school board member since 2008, has thrown his hat into another political ring: challenging state representative Lon Burnam in the Democratic primary for the District 90 seat Burnam has held for the past 15 years. It’s an ambitious move. Burnam has had no primary opposition since his first term in office.  He has had little opposition in the general election. The liberal Democrat’s support in his district and among his fellow party members has always been strong, but this year four key Hispanic Democrats are jumping ship for Vasquez – fellow board member Juan Rangel, Fort Worth city councilman Sal Espino, Tarrant County constable Sergio de Leon, and long-time political activist and former city council member Lou Zapata. Plus, Vasquez said, Jim Lane, another long-time party activist who also served on the council and who ran unsuccessfully this year for mayor of Fort Worth, will be his campaign treasurer. All have been Burnam supporters in the past. And, Burnam has reciprocated, pointing out that he paid for Rangel’s victory party when he won his first race for the school board.  And while he backed Cathy Hirt for mayor initially, he threw his support to Lane in the run-off between Lane and the winner Betsy Price. “I not only publicly supported Jim,” he said, “I made hundreds of phone calls to get out the vote for him.”

The race may get nasty for reasons that have little to do with Burnam, however, and more to do with board politics. Vasquez – known for his outspoken criticisms of board policies and the management style of former superintendent Melody Johnson – has been asked to resign from his position on the board by two members.  President Ray Dickerson publicly called on Vasquez to step down after he announced and one long-term member with a substantial political war chest (whom Vasquez declined to name) offered to give him money for his campaign “on the condition I would resign,” Vasquez said.

 “I considered it a bribe,” he said. 


 “I have no intention of resigning,” he added, pointing out that former board member Chris Hatch ran for the state legislature in 2007 and no one on the board called for his resignation. (Hatch lost the state rep race and was later defeated for his board seat in 2010 by Ann Sutherland who is also supporting Vasquez.)  Vasquez, with 15 years as an educator in the public schools and who is now an adjunct professor in the graduate school of education at Texas Wesleyan University, said that education issues will be his priority.  And he was quick to point out that the race is not about race, even though the district is overwhelmingly Hispanic and in recent years political leaders have been grumbling that the post should be held by a Latino.  

Burnam is taking the challenge seriously, but is “very disappointed,” he said that Vasquez decided to run against him on “issues that are not real.” Vasquez has accused Burnam of “failing to fight hard enough for education funding” at the state level, an accusation that sets Burnam’s hair on fire.

“I have done more for education since I’ve been in office than anyone,” he said, citing his fight during a particularly grueling session two and a half years ago in which Burnam said he “singlehandedly killed an education bill”  that would have opened the doors to a voucher system that would have taken even more money away from public schools.

“I am a senior leader of the Democratic minority in the House and I have vigorously fought against the cuts in education spending,” he said. Democrats in the House and Senate, including Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, have unsuccessfully fought against the draconian cuts in education that Republicans have pushed through with the support of Governor Rick Perry. However, Burnam and the other Dems fight an uphill battle every session as their numbers dwindle. 

Is it fair to suggest that Burnam isn’t doing enough when the votes are not there? Can Vasquez do better simply by changing the name of the Democrat from District 90? Time will tell. The primary is in March, still a long way to go. Stay tuned.



  1. it’s time for Lon to go. He is all about the politics of symbolism and protest. We need a practical fighter who can be more effective in Austin. Lon could author a bill praising the Yellow Rose of Texas and it would be DOA.

  2. Betty,

    I am usually pleased with your accuracy in reporting. I have to request a few corrections.

    I never used the word bribe in connection to support from my colleagues. I have been pleased at the support I have received from fellow school board members. However, a few are not my political supporters.

    At no point has any trustee offered me money from their own political war chest nor has that ever been requested or discussed. That is an important detail.

    Also, I am no longer teaching at the Texas Wesleyan School of Education and have not done so for the last two years.

    Thank you again Betty for your reportage!


    Carlos Vasquez

  3. In response to Dr. Vasquez’s questioning of my journalistic accuracy, here are the facts:
    His official web site for his FWISD board position says this: “Dr. Carlos Vasquez …serves as an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education at Texas Wesleyan University, where he teaches leadership and curriculum courses to Master students seeking Principal certification.” There is no mention that he has not done that in two years. As for the offer of a fellow member to help finance his campaign, Dr. Vasquez was clear in my interview with him that one long-time member offered to help finance his run for higher office if he would resign from the board. He also said, when asked, that he considered such an offer a “bribe.” He named the member and asked only that I refrain from naming her, which I did. I stand by my reporting.

  4. I am gay, and would normally support any gay candidate for any office, but in this case I am supporting Lon Burnham, as I have for fifteen years. Lon has been just about the only voice we have in Austin on issues concerning working class people, public education, environmental protection, and civil rights. No one, and I mean no one, has worked harder for Democratic values and the well-being of his constituents that Lon has. The fact that he is forced to represent us in a nest of right-wing, intolerant, ignorant, and bigoted vipers is not his fault, though it is his burden.
    Vasquez can point to no issue on which Lon has voted or worked that was not beneficial to his hispanic constituents. Vasquez is basically looking for a job, and he is running because he is sure that with his last name, he will be a shoe-in in a district which is largely hispanic.
    That’s tantamount to racism.

  5. So when a Hispanic runs in a Hispanic-majority District it is racism. Ok glad we have that straight. See even us liberals can be racist, too haha

    It is one thing to be a loud advocate, its another thing to be effective. Lon has had his time. Now it’s time to give someone else a shot.

  6. When a hispanic runs in a majority hispanic district against an incumbent who is a more effective representative than the challenger could be, and the incumbent’s efforts and policies are no different than would be the challenger’s, and the hispanic challenger expects to win simply because his last name is Vasquez and not Johnson or Pulaski, then, yes, it’s tantamount to racism. “Vote for me and not the white guy. Sure, he’s every bit as effective as someone with his politics could possibly be in that cesspit of right-wing insanity in Austin, and sure he has represented you with all his heart and soul, but he’s anglo and I’m hispanic, so vote for me. Why? Just because.”
    Like I said, Vasquez is looking for a job. And this one looks like easy pickings because his last name fits the bill.

  7. Yes I see it clearly now. “Why should minorities bother when a white man clearly will do a better job? And he will do a better job because I just said so.” there are many who applaud Lon for many of his stances but nevertheless recognize that we could have a better, more effective representative in Austin. Tarrant County is the largest Metropolitan County in the State to have never elected a Hispanic State Representative.

    I think it’s fair for a smart, educated and fearless Hispanic elected official like Carlos Vasquez to run … I say that as one who has campaigned for Lon and supported him in the past. He should retire, head held high, and let the Hispanic community have a place at the table.

  8. People! The BIGGER issue is the on-going CORRUPTION on the FWISD School Board. No secret it was Judy Needham who offered the $$$$ in return for his resignation. Her and her racist buddies Dickerson and Robbins should be investigated and indicted. This is a sick and corrupt Board. If Carlos wins, the Legislature’s gain will definitely be FWISD’s loss. God Bless you Carlos for all you have done for kids and those without a voice. Teachers will definitely miss you.

  9. Way to call it Teacher! Needham’s name certainly fell off my lips, when I read the comment about “someone” offering to contribute to Dr. V’s campaign in exchange for his resignation! Dr. V., you had me at “War Chest”! I am very disappointed though; why not name the dragon slayer and call what “she” did as bribery? It is she who has bought every corrupted seat on the board, including her precious MJ’s position as former superintendent! It is “she”, who has also bought herself out of prison time, for her participation on past shady dealings! Isn’t there something legally, not to mention morally wrong, when you want to oust someone as trustee…with a BRIBE??? Oh wait a minute…hell to no…because if nothing has been done so far with all the corruption at FWISD, headed by one Judy Needham, aka Broom Hilda; what makes me think this itty bitty nugget of information will bring someone like her down!!!

    Dr. V., I think you should be glad to distance yourself away (when you win) from B. Hilda and the rest of her “Saturday Morning Cartoon” character friends, like Dickerson, Jackson, Robbins, Sims, and Moss! And Mr. Dansby thinks he is running the show??!! I don’t know Burman, but like any political seat held too long by any one person, it can sometimes use a blood transfusion. What happens, from a political novice’s point of view, is that people in office for longer than 10 yrs, like in a regular job, start getting complacent; tired of fighting the same old fight, issues and concerns start to “taste and smell” different, and so forth. Mr. Burman, there is no shame in admitting that you have done the best you can do, in the 15 yrs you have held your position. You have fought for your Hispanic constituents and WE are grateful! However, it may be time to let someone else take the lead; someone who I am sure, will keep your hopes and dreams alive! Too much?

  10. Go Carlos! Burnham had his chance to do something and was simply complacent. He could have helped Carlos do something to clean up the FWISD School Board. Why not ask the Attorney General to investigate Needham and Dickerson? Isn’t bribery a crime? Dickerson was in on it as he is QUOTED in the Startlegram suggesting Carlos resign days after Needham offered the $$$,

  11. CAVEAT EMPTOR! Sounds like Vasquez may be tap dancing, so as not to offend his colleagues, or perhaps have them unearth skeleton’s during his campaign?! Man up Vasquez and throw them all under the bus, like they have done to you! Better yet, let sleeping dogs lay, b/c one day, they will all be pleading for help from the dog catcher!

  12. I’ve spoken to him many times, he called me his friend
    For me I do not have friends who rig bids and take money under the table. CARLOS VASQUES CANNOT BE TRUSTED. He ran for the trustee position as an overall plan to build his political career. He joked about how it was a waste of time going after the Hispanic vote, claiming that Hispanics don’t vote. His eye was on the Black Vote and that’s why he’s promoting and african american of a fully qualified Hispanic Lady. Carlos Vasques will walk over our chidren to get to the top. I wish I had somethng positive to say about this man, but please believe me when I tell you, I know him well.

  13. Carlos you’ve gone too far. Quit telling people that we’re friends. You know exactly who I am. The fact that Mr. Burnam is a public figure does give you licence to slander the man. I told you to do an honest campaign. I told you that people didn’t like negative campaigns. I don’t think the phrase “there’s a fool born every second” should ever come from you mouth again. I’m not your friend any more, as a matter of fact, the way you look down on people, I don’t think I ever was.

  14. Hey Carlos,
    This is the last time I’m going to honor your stupid request that I critize Mr. Burnam every time and article comes out. I believed you when you told me Burnam was a racist. But now that I spoken with family members who know Mr Burnam, I know that he’s been the best friend ever to my people. I don’t know him but I believe my family over you. I notice you got Raul to critize Mr. Burnam. Just wait til I talk to him.

  15. Sorry, we’re going with Lon. You have no idea how hard he’s worked for our people. His white skin has never kept him from defending us. I understand that you think that Rev. Tatum will get you the black vote. You’ll need it, because you certainly don’t have the majority of the Latino vote. We latinos do not abandon our friends. I understand that you brag about your homosexuality and are not shy about showing off your white male lover. It’s your choice, buy don’t rub it in the latinos face. Keep it to yourself and do what you got to do, but you know we latinos don’t play that game. You’re going to spend the next twenty years trying to fill his shoes.

  16. Dear Dallas Observer, Mr. Vasques has a stradegy, which includes paid campaign workers who write in on every news article stating in one way or another that Burnam needs to be put out to pasteur. I’ts orchastrated. Betty Brink did not lie, Vasquez just trying to intimidate the press. You’ve really got to know Vasques to know how ruthless and sneaky he is.

  17. I agree, Carlos Vasquez is not trust worthy. As one of his ex-students I can say, the class was a waste of time. He spent most of his time bragging on himself–telling us how great he was and how a white man had no business representing Latinos. As a latina with a masters he offends me. The color of a person’s skin shouldn’t disqualify him. You should put the race card down. As a homosexual male you should understand it better than most, but you don’t

  18. Red-neck mexicans is what he calls all latinos who disagree with him. He said, “the only time mexicans vote is when he throws a beer party afterwards. He thinks we lations understand his sick since of humor, nor do we appreciate his sick mind when he post his homosexual fat body on UTube. Oh yes, immediately before announcing his intentions at district 90, he deleted it from U-Tube. He was necked in the shower with a caption of “Gay man looking for play”. Oh yes,my grand daughter is the one who showed me the picture. Does Vasques not see something wrong in that?

  19. Roy is right, I am also gay. Carlos Vasques says he’s gay but I tend to doubt or why would he be running against the best friend the gay community ever had?

    You’re right, Carlos Vasques will fit right in that “cesspit of right wing insanity” Carlos Vasques has never used his clout to speak out about any gay issue. Thanks Roy, for speaking out.

  20. I am thinking most of you on here are right on the money! Vasquez cannot be trusted! I believe he needs to stay on the board and suffer out his term. are you really Hispanic Vasquez? If you were, you know we are people who are loyal and trustworthy, not liars and cheats like you. We have each others back and we NEVER sling mud like you are trying to do to Burnam. how about you take care of your district at FWISD first? you haven’t done a lick for us on the northside! most all of your schools in your district are low-performing and you won’t get rid of the bad people running them who make them worse. you are a sell out with an agenda! I hope you lose district 90 race! I am not voting for you for sure. I am unfriending you from my facebook now. I don’t want to see all the places you go to shove your negative agenda down peoples throats.