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A field of eight GOP candidates has narrowed to two Republicans competing to represent Texas’ 5th Congressional District.

State Rep. Lance Gooden of Terrell and Garland-based political fundraising consultant Bunni Pounds will go head-to-head in the May 22 Republican primary runoff. The winner will likely also win the general election to fill the open seat left by retiring U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R–Dallas.

The reliably Republican district encompasses a portion of southeast Dallas County including the city of Mesquite, as well as the East Texas counties of Anderson, Cherokee, Henderson, Kaufman, Van Zandt, and part of Wood.

Pounds worked as Hensarling’s campaign manager before venturing into the political fundraising business, counting Hensarling and other Republicans among her clients. In addition to her former boss, she’s received high-profile endorsements from Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and conservative organizations including Texas Right to Life, Young Conservatives of Texas, and Club for Growth.

Pounds says she is running her campaign on “faith, freedom, and fiscal responsibility.”

“I believe one of the most important things for you to know about me is the foundation by which I approach life and the worldview I will take to Congress. I am a Christian conservative who believes wholeheartedly in the Bible as the inspired Word of God and I believe that the Constitution of the United States is the most incredible document ever authored to establish a nation.”

Pounds cites national defense and border security as top issues to tackle in Congress. She says the federal government’s top priority is protecting the people of the United States. “The Constitution calls on us to do one thing: defend America,” she said.

As the daughter of a military veteran, Pounds says she understands the importance of supporting and properly equipping our troops. Pounds also backs President Trump’s call for increased manpower, surveillance, and a structural wall at the border, as well as a crackdown on sanctuary cities and states.

Both Pounds and Gooden describe themselves as conservative. Pounds emphasizes that she’s a Christian conservative, while Gooden points to his record.

Gooden says he’s been an “effective” leader on conservative issues in the Texas House, while Pounds represents “out-of-district” and “DC special interests.”

Gooden, a self-employed risk management and business development consultant, has served three terms in the Texas Legislature representing House District 4 in Kaufman and Henderson counties. His voting record on fiscal issues is mixed.

After rating a D+ in 2011 and a B+ in 2013, then being voted out of office for a term, Gooden earned a failing grade of 42 on the 2017 Fiscal Responsibility Index. His overall legislative career rating is a C+.

Gooden is also ranked one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House on Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones’ 2017 Liberal-Conservative ranking of House members – meaning his voting record is significantly less conservative than most of his GOP colleagues.

Yet Gooden claims a number of conservative legislative accomplishments and says he wants to continue that record of achievement in Washington.

“We need a new Congressman of East Texas, by East Texas and for East Texas who understands the traditional values that we share,” Gooden said in launching his congressional campaign – a jab at the influence of Dallas voters and issues in the district’s representation.

He notes his role in fighting off forced annexation of Kaufman County property by the Dallas County city of Mesquite as an example of his leadership on behalf of rural residents in the district.

Though Gooden voted against annexation reform during last year’s regular legislative session, he did respond to the outcry in his district from his constituents. During the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott, Gooden not only voted for annexation reform but was also an advocate for the issue in the Texas House.

Gooden entered the CD 5 race with endorsements from a dozen small-town mayors and other local officials in Kaufman and Henderson counties. He’s also been endorsed by the Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Association of Realtors (TREPAC), and the NRA.

Gooden cites immigration and border security – which he calls “our greatest national security risk today” ­– as top priorities for Congress, along with healthcare reforms that repeal Obamacare and focus on state-based solutions.

Gooden finished first in the eight-way March 6 primary, with 30 percent of the vote; Pounds received 22 percent.

Former State Rep. Kenneth Sheets finished fourth, behind political newcomer Sam Deen. Sheets said at a candidate forum in February that he wasn’t interested in joining the conservative House Freedom Caucus if elected to Congress. Pounds said she would join, “because that’s what the people of the 5th Congressional District want.” Gooden didn’t attend the forum.

Pounds has both out-raised and outspent Gooden in the race. According to the latest campaign finance reports ending March 31, Pounds has received over $575,000 in contributions and spent $405,000. Gooden has collected almost $347,000 and spent $227,000.

Just since the March primary, Pounds says she’s raised $154,000 to Gooden’s $118,000.

Early voting in the May 22 primary runoff begins May 14 and ends May 18. All eligible voters who register by April 23 can participate in the Republican runoff, except those who voted in the March 6 Democrat primary.

The runoff winner will face Democrat Dan Wood in the November 6 general election.