While most of the Democrats running for House District 49 have reached out to several campus organizations in an effort to gain student support, there are still some groups — such as College Republicans — who have yet to recieve any form of outreach.
Five of the candidates — Austin ISD School Board member Gina Hinojosa, former legislative aide Huey Rey Fischer, UT law professor Heather Way, attorney Aspen Dunaway, former NARAL Pro-Choice Texas counsel Blake Rocap — have actively spent time on campus reaching out to student voters through forums with University Democrats and Student Government. All have previously stated they would focus on the concerns of the large student population trhoughout the district, if elected.
Whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary on March 1 will face no opposition in the November general election, ensuring the nominee is a freshman representative once the legislature reconvenes in January 2017.
“Although we are obviously not going to agree with the candidates on most things, there isn’t a Republican candidate, and we are voters,” College Republicans President Madison Yandell said. “It would go a long way for a candidate to reach out.”
Over the weekend, the candidates — except attorneys Kenton Johnson and Matt Shrum — attended forums with University Democrats and Central Austin Democrats. After the forum, UDems members voted to endorse Fischer and Central Austin Democrats endorsed Hinojosa.
In addition to his recent UDems endorsement, the Fischer campaign on Monday released a list of student leader endorsements on campus, which includes Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu as well as leaders of Students Against Animal Cruelty.
Fischer, who has run on a platform focused on student voters, said as a previous UDems president, he had a healthy relationship working with College Republicans and other groups on campus in trying to increase voter turnout on campus, and he said he hopes that relationship continues if elected to the legislature.
“While candidates and legislators have traditionally focused on the University Democrats, I have decided to really expand outreach to go after nonpartisan students, students who are still politically engaged and care about the issues being debated at the legislature,” Fischer said. “We’ve done outreach to constituencies that aren’t part of the traditional voice of students.”
While some candidates have reached out to Student Government and other nonpartisan organizations on campus, Robert Guerra, College Republicans communications director, said he believes candidates haven’t spent time talking to more conservative student organizations because of partisanship.
“You would expect candidates to spend their time and resources where they can get the most benefit,” Guerra said. “They are probably going to get the most benefit from reaching out to those Democratic and liberal-leaning groups as opposed to ours.”
Throughout the campaign, Hinojosa has locked up the endorsements of more than 200 Democratic organizations and other groups, including the Austin American-Statesman and Central Austin Democrats.
Although Hinojosa did not get the UDems endorsement, supporters of Hinojosa say her campaign will still be active on campus leading into March 1.
“We’re moving forward with a campus-wide effort for Gina,” said Sam Garcia, UT coordinator for the Hinojosa campaign “She is passionate about what she does and has proven that she will fight for the issues that matter to both students and our community.”