Congressional District 21: Center vs. Left?
How flippable is this district?
Considering the radically gerrymandered congressional districts dissecting Travis County, the working consensus seems to be that CD 21, the elongated Southwest Austin/Hill Country/San Antonio carve-out, should be the most "flippable" for Texas Dems – in part because the seat is being vacated by retiring 30-year Republican incumbent Lamar Smith – perhaps best known for his unyielding opposition to environmental protection, most specifically any acknowledgement of global warming.
Ironically, the first Democratic round eliminated Derrick Crowe and Elliott McFadden, known for their environmental advocacy. The surviving contenders are tech entrepreneur/veteran Joseph Kopser and pastor/educator Mary Wilson, who was the first-round front-runner, despite a bare-bones campaign, surprising many observers (including, Wilson cheerfully pointed out, the Chronicle). The margin was narrow (31%-29%), and the run-off result will depend on turnout and the breakout of the remaining 40%.
In theory, Kopser maintains considerable organizational and financial advantages, with a much deeper campaign chest and the lion's share of the official Democratic and group endorsements, ranging from national Democratic figures to state Sen. Kirk Watson and many others, including union groups*[see update below]. But Wilson garnered support from former rival Crowe, as well as former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, and the Texas wing of the Bernie Sanders spin-off, Our Revolution. Wilson also notes that the incipient "Blue Wave" will rely heavily on women voters.
In that context, the default campaign narrative has portrayed Kopser as a "centrist business/establishment" Democrat vs. Wilson as the "outsider" from the party's progressive wing. Neither candidate comfortably wears the mantle: Wilson notes that unlike Kopser, she's been a life-long Democrat; Kopser says his earnest political engagement was triggered by the Trump ascension, and that he came to the Democratic Party over time in recognition of its progressive values. Notably, each candidate independently joined the fight against Senate Bill 6 – the state GOP's anti-transgender "Bathroom Bill" – Wilson as a grassroots opponent, Kopser from his position on the board of the Texas Association of Business (which opposed the bill).
Each candidate argues that their specific profiles – Kopser's military/business background vs. Wilson's social justice activism – will enable them to win over a persistently conservative district. Kopser argues that he's "built the resources to be able to win"; Wilson counters that her pastoral experience of "bringing people together" will persuade young people and disillusioned Republicans (especially women) to return to the polls, now and in November.
*Update: This passage originally read, "most union groups." In fact, Kopser and Wilson were jointly endorsed by the Texas AFL-CIO, with Kopser capturing the endorsement of the Austin Central Labor Council and Wilson that of the San Antonio CLC.