Cold weather may decrease voter turnout for the House District 50 runoff election between Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VanDeWalle on Tuesday.
After state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, resigned from the House seat in June, a special election was called for November. In the special election, around 60 percent of voters chose one of the three Democratic candidates, while about 40 percent chose VanDeWalle. No candidate received a majority of the votes, so Tuesday’s runoff election will determine the representative. House District 50 consists of parts of North Austin, Pflugerville and areas just west of Bastrop.
University Democrats President David Feigen is a volunteer coordinator for Israel’s campaign. Feigen said he has been working to increase voter turnout, but he is concerned the cold weather will discourage people from voting.
“Probably our biggest opponent has nothing to do with our opponent and nothing to do with our candidate, but it has a lot to do with the weather,” Feigen said. “It’s an extraneous variable — we don’t know what that will do to people that might think, ‘Oh, she’s got it in the bag. We don’t need to show up.’”
Feigen said he thinks grassroots efforts are especially important in this
election because people may not be informed about the race.
“It’s a January special election where it’s the only race going on,” Feigen said. “Spreading the word and making sure everyone understands how this works is more crucial than ever.”
Daniel Hung, president for College Republicans at Texas, said it is difficult to predict the outcome of the election.
“It’s hard to say because it’s a runoff election, and there’s going to be low turnout,” Hung said. “It’s going to be very cold,
Feigen said Israel has provided many opportunities for University Democrats to participate in her campaign.
“She showed a belief in us,” Feigen said. “She’s assured University Democrats that we have a friend in the Capitol whose door will always be open to us.”
Feigen said he thinks Israel’s goal to expand the district’s Democratic
electorate is important.
“What was once a 58 percent Democratic district can become more like a 65 percent Democratic district, which doesn’t mean a lot for the person running in that seat, but it means a lot for [a candidate] running statewide,” Feigen said.
Hung said the outcome of the election may signal which political direction Texans will vote in November general elections.
“This district will be a bellwether as to which direction Texas as a whole will blow in 2014,” Hung said. “If VanDeWalle wins, then it would really show that Texas is not moving to the Democratic direction.”
Feigen said he thinks Israel’s previous state government experience will help her reverse cuts to education spending and ensure that teachers’ salaries are more in line with the national average.
According to Hung, many campaign promises may remain unfulfilled in the first few years in office.
“Whoever wins, they’ll be a newly elected state representative,” Hung said. “They’re going to be a freshman in a chamber of 150 legislators, with most of [the legislators] with more seniority than [the newly elected one].”