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Dunnam may keep seat for fifth term

Nov. 3, 2004

Hibbs has 42 percent of vote for state rep position late Tuesday

By MELISSA HENNIGAN, contributor

Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, was leading Republican Jeffrey Hibbs by 58 percent to 42 percent with 90 percent of precincts reporting at 11:45 p.m. If he wins, this will be Dunnam's fifth term in office serving state District 57.

At 11:35 p.m., Hibbs was sitting with relatives and had not yet released a public statement.

In what the Waco Tribune-Herald called an "unlikely dethroning," Hibbs once again challenged Dunnam for the State Representative seat of District 57. Both candidates are Baylor alumni.

The district, which consists of part of McLennan County and all of Falls, Robertson, Leon and Madison Counties, typically leans Democratic, and as recently as October 26, the Waco Tribune-Herald said that Dunnam was favored to win.

"This district is about 55 percent Democratic, and if I do better than that, then I'm very happy," Dunnam said.

"We've got some real trials next session in regards to the budget," Dunnam said. "We have school finance issues, we have health care issues, we need to restore the CHIPS budget, we need to restore teacher health care, and that's going to be a challenge and I look forward to it."

Two years ago, Hibbs took on Dunnam for the seat and lost by 20 percent. Hibbs said this election has been completely different.

"In 2002, I literally knocked on 10,000 doors, and I spent no money," Hibbs said. "This time we had volunteers and supporters. Sen. John Cornyn, [R-Texas], made a recorded phone message reminding people to vote."

Both candidates addressed the attacks by their opponent.

"I didn't think [the campaign] was any more personal than the last time," Dunnam said.

"[Dunnam] spent $150,000 or more on negative attack ads," Hibbs said. "If people listened to the attack ads, then that could be the difference."

"[Hibbs] wanted to talk about my residence and something else," Dunnam said. "That's what he wanted to talk about last election too and it didn't work."

Dunnam earned his business and law degrees from Baylor University and practices law at Dunnam & Dunnam.

Hibbs graduated first in his class from Texas Tech University before getting his MBA from Baylor. He is the co-owner of Crelia, Hibbs & Associates, an insurance company in Waco.

Dunnam was first elected in November 1996 and serves on the criminal jurisprudence and juvenile justice and family issues committees. He is the leader of the House Democrats and led the charge of democrats to leave for Oklahoma to stall the 2003 vote on redistricting.

"I take great pride in the confidence the voters have done me for five terms," Dunnam said. "I don't take that trust for granted, and I try to do a good job. I think that has been reflected in a lot of things we've accomplished."

Sports editor Catherine Brown and reporter Kate McClendon contributed to this report.