Rep. Michael Burgess (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Dec. 23, 1950, Rochester, MN .
Education: N. TX St. U., B.S. 1972, M.S. 1976, U. of TX Med. Schl., M.D. 1977, U. of TX Dallas, M.S. 2000.
Family: Married (Laura); 3 children.
Professional Career: Practicing obstetrician, 1981-2003.
The congressman from the 26th District is Michael Burgess, a Republican first elected in 2002. He grew up in Denton County, the son of a physician, and graduated from the University of North Texas and the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. He trained at Parkland Hospital in Dallas and set up an obstetrics-gynecology practice in Lewisville. After 21 years in practice, Burgess decided to run for Congress, his first bid for elective office. When House Majority Leader Dick Armey announced in December 2001 that he would not run again, there was no doubt that he would be succeeded by a Republican. But almost no one expected that the winner would be political novice Burgess. The widespread expectation, in Texas and in Washington, was that the winner would be the majority leader’s son, Scott Armey, a former Denton County judge. He made the networking rounds on Capitol Hill and among lobbyists. He was only 32, and it seemed likely he would be a congressman for many years to come.
|Michael Burgess (R)||195,181||(60%)||($1,021,104)|
|Ken Leach (D)||118,167||(36%)||($974)|
|Stephanie Weiss (Lib)||11,028||(3%)|
|Michael Burgess (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (66%), 2002 (75%)
In the primary, Armey outspent Burgess by more than 6-to-1. But turnout was light—only 25,000 people out of 456,000 voting-age residents took part. There were no Republican primary contests at the top of the ticket, and there didn’t seem to be much suspense about the outcome. Armey won 45% of the vote, which was not enough to avoid a runoff. Burgess won 23%, just 91 votes ahead of the third-place finisher. Then, in the four-week runoff campaign, Burgess benefited from a series of hard-hitting articles in the Dallas Morning News about Scott Armey’s record as a county judge. The paper reported that he had used his position to steer county jobs and contracts to close friends, including a $1.5 million transportation consulting contract. Burgess focused primarily on two issues—health care and taxes. A patients’ rights advocate, he had helped to draft and pass the Texas Patients’ Bill of Rights, and he vowed to do the same on a national level. His campaign was helped by the support of medical societies and local physicians who urged their patients to vote for him. Only 19,000 people turned out to vote in the April runoff, and Burgess won 55%-45%. Armey carried Collin and Tarrant counties but lost 60%-40% in Denton County, where he was known best. After the runoff, his formerly powerful father spoke bitterly of the Morning News’s “vicious unprofessionalism” and accused the paper of a vendetta against the Armey family. In the general election, Burgess won 75%-23% over a Democrat whose son he had delivered. He has been re-elected comfortably since, though with smaller margins since the 2003 redistricting.
In the House, Burgess has a reliably conservative voting record. He is best known for his work on health-care issues, especially since he joined the influential Energy and Commerce Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over the medical industry. In March 2009, he joined a bipartisan agreement to permit the Food and Drug Administration to approve generic versions of biologic drugs. He supported George W. Bush’s call for limited federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, and he played a role in enacting a measure to prepare the nation for a possible bird-flu epidemic. At home, he sought answers to the high infant-mortality rate in Tarrant County and looked into the cost to public hospitals of children born to illegal immigrants. As the only Texas Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during his first term, Burgess worked to change the funding formula so that Texas “receives its fair share” of gas-tax revenues.
Burgess also has made some inroads into the GOP leadership. He served as vice chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, which hammers out the party’s positions on issues. In 2008, he was presidential candidate McCain’s point person on health-care policy and campaigned for him on that issue in 10 states. “We really just weren’t developing [health-care principles] on our side of the House,” he told the Morning News. “In a lot of ways, the McCain campaign was my salvation.” After the election, he unsuccessfully challenged Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter for chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.