Israel Win Gives Dems the Edge in November

Turnout impressive despite ice storms

Celia Israel (r), in November, the night she advanced to a run-off
Celia Israel (r), in November, the night she advanced to a run-off (Photo by John Anderson)

When Celia Israel began her drive to replace North Austin's state Representative Mark Strama in House District 50, she was the worst-resourced Demo­crat in a three-way field with strong opponents. But she ended her six-month campaign Tuesday night at a victory party at the Four Seasons, feted by a wide array of Travis County Democrats, praised by lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte, and set for a trouble-free campaign to hold her seat in November in a rematch with her Republican opponent, Mike VanDeWalle.

Israel captured 59.4% of the 10,314 votes cast, while VanDeWalle took 40.6%.

It had been a strange campaign down to the last week. Early voting was abbreviated due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Jan. 20, and two ice storms had affected campaign get-out-the-vote operations. One, coming just before election day, closed eight of the district's 36 polling places. Nasty weather Tuesday morning paralyzed traffic and forced school closures, prompting a court order clearing the county to extend polling hours to 8pm. In spite of those setbacks, the campaigns were able to turn out almost 11% of the vote – an impressive feat for an oddly timed, off-season special election run-off.

In her speech, Israel told the assembled partiers that the campaign's success, assisted by Battleground Texas, provided a blueprint for Texas Democrats to win in 2014. In a statement, the organization called Israel's win the "first of many to come."

There will be a lot of people speculating about the wider import of the win, but at a base level, Democrats will simply be happy to retain Strama's seat through an irregular campaign season that could have seen a surprise GOP pick-up. In the November election, Israel will be assisted by Democratic turnout for gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis in the Democratic-leaning district, and should be considered essentially a lock.

At the Four Seasons party, Israel seemed mightily relieved. Her campaign had knocked on each door in the district an average of nine-and-a-half times, she said. "We've tried to show a respect for the voter," she said. "And I think that's how we're going to turn Texas purple – personal voter contact."

When she took the stage, introduced by City Council Member Mike Martinez and state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, she did so to the accompaniment of Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire."


Early Voting Election Day Total Vote
Celia Israel (D)2,653 (58.9%) 3,476 (59.9%) 6,129 (59.4%)
Mike VanDeWalle (R) 1,854 (41.1%) 2,331 (40.1%) 4,185 (40.6%)
Total Ballots Cast 4,541 5,865 10,406
Turnout % of Reg. Voters 4.7% 6.0% 10.7%

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More News
AE's Solar Deal: 'Game Changer'
AE's Solar Deal: 'Game Changer'
Recurrent Energy price could lower energy rates

Nora Ankrum, July 4, 2014

Morrison to Mayor: 'It's Not Personal, It's Policy'
Morrison to Mayor: 'It's Not Personal, It's Policy'
Leffingwell refuses to give up Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Planning Org. seat

Amy Smith, July 4, 2014

More by Christopher Hooks
Pct. 2 Campaigns Trade Barbs
Pct. 2 Campaigns Trade Barbs
As election day nears, the sparks are flying

Feb. 14, 2014

Club 'Stacking' = Democratic Drama
Club 'Stacking' = Democratic Drama
Fairness of endorsement process in dispute

Feb. 7, 2014


News, November 2014 Election, Celia Israel, Mike VanDeWalle, Mark Strama, Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, Battleground Texas, Eddie Rodriguez

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle