Despite worries about COVID-19, voters are still turning out for the runoff elections in Texas. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir believes voter turnout could reach 20-percent on Tuesday. Typical turnout for a runoff is usually much lower.
Besides the high-profile U.S. Senate runoff, races for Congress and Texas House are also attracting voters to the polls.
In central Texas, there is a tight race to determine who will challenge Republican Congressman Michael McCaul in November.
In 2018, Democrat Mike Siegel finished less than five percentage points behind McCaul in the District 10 race. Siegel is back in the runoff, hoping for another run at the incumbent.
“That’s a race that many of the political watchers label as likely Republican, but isn’t out of reach,” explained KXAN Politics Reporter John Engel.
Siegel supports policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. “He’s endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren,” Engel said. “It’s more of that progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
But Siegel faces a strong challenge in the primary from a newcomer, physician Dr. Pritesh Gandhi. Gandhi has worked with patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic at a non-profit clinic.
“He is more middle-of-the-road, more in the realm of a Biden-like candidate,” Engel said. “He believes in Medicare for all who want it, and some of those more moderate to liberal ideas.”
Gandhi has found success when it comes to fundraising. His campaign has been able to air television ads in the weeks leading up to the election.
“So interesting to see that Pritesh Gandhi as this new outsider candidate has outraised Mike Siegel, even though Siegel came within five percentage points of McCaul back in 2018,” Engel added.
Elections for the Texas House are also getting attention. One factor is the looming battle over redistricting, and both parties are looking to flip seats in the Legislature to gain more influence in drawing voting lines.
“In the Texas House, I would argue that some of the most interesting races are in central Texas right now,” said Nexstar State Bureau Reporter Wes Rapaport.
He pointed to Texas House District 47, which Democrat Vikki Goodwin flipped from red to blue in 2018. The Republican runoff could be close.
The race pits Jennifer Fleck, an Austin attorney who has the backing of the hyper-conservative Texas Values against Austin Police Officer Justin Berry. Governor Greg Abbott endorsed Berry.
“There’s also a battle down south of Austin in Hays County, House District 45,” Rapaport said. The runoff features Hays County Republican Party General Counsel facing Carrie Isaac, who runs a non-profit for disabled veterans. Isaac’s husband vacated the District 45 seat in 2018 to run for Congress.
The winner will challenge incumbent Democrat Erin Zwiener in November. She flipped the seat from red to blue in the 2018 election.
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