Texas House District 47: Workman’s Blues
Can anybody beat Paul Workman?
A recent analysis by Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones identifies this as one of the 15 most vulnerable Republican seats in 2018. That has emboldened run-off candidates Elaina Fowler and Vikki Goodwin as they vie to unseat conservative Rep. Paul Workman in November.
The district, which mainly encompasses the Lakeway area and southern parts of Travis County, has been held by Workman since 2011. "It's certainly flippable. I think a Democrat really could win and I'm feeling good about that," an optimistic Goodwin told me last week. The local real estate agent, education business entrepreneur, and former systems analyst with the Attorney General's Office says she's been working around the clock to fundraise and talk to voters directly since the March primary. "I think I've got good communication skills, I'm a good negotiator, and I can bring people from opposing sides together," she says. Goodwin's policy agenda focuses around school finance, increased oversight of the embattled Texas foster care system, and expanding Medicaid. She says that if elected, she would propose dedicating 94% of sporting goods sales tax to state and local parks. Since March, she's gained high ratings from the Texans for Public Education, Texas Nurse Practitioners, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
Goodwin's confidence stems from her 715-vote first-round edge over Fowler, who says she's been busy targeting certain voters to make up – and exceed – the difference. "I'm knocking on doors and making calls." A former chief of staff to state Rep. Helen Giddings and policy aide to Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, Fowler also ran a business that promoted environmental remediation, and now works as state director of Texas retirees for AFSCME. Her priorities include teacher pay raises, restructuring public school finance to reduce reliance on recapture, tackling the maternal morbidity crisis, and preserving natural features amid property development. "Growth is great," she says, "but we also need to respect the environmental factors when we develop, like endangered species, the greenbelt, and water preservation." Following the primary, she's picked up endorsements from City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, County Commissioner Brigid Shea, Clean Water Action, Our Revolution South Austin, Left Up to Us, and HD 47 primary opponent Candace Aylor.
Both Fowler and Goodwin hope to initiate road improvements to RM 620, a stretch that sees high traffic congestion; they say Workman's dedication to fixing the problem has come up short. Both have also made gun control an even stronger priority in the wake of the Parkland shooting and March for Our Lives rally, and from sitting on panels dedicated to gun safety in public schools. "These teenagers are hoping adults and lawmakers see how we failed them," said Fowler. "I'm so proud to see the youth put gun control critics to shame."
This article has been updated. It previously reported that former HD 47 candidate Will Simpson had endorsed Elaina Fowler. In fact, Simpson has not endorsed any candidate.