Mike Siegel was on the road in late September, en route from Austin to a Houston radio appearance. He said he's grown accustomed to traversing the length of CD 10, and its three distinct regions: north and northwest Austin, a western and northern slice of Harris County, and the predominantly rural counties in between. That's meant different concerns among voters, he says. While health care remains the No. 1 issue, and everyone supports ready access or universal care, in the half-dozen rural counties – Bastrop to Waller – recent hospital closures are most urgent.
"If you're pregnant in La Grange, and the baby is coming – do you drive 90 minutes to Austin or Houston, to find a quality hospital?" he asks. "People worry over that very real lack of access." Another concern of rural voters that most city residents don't realize is reliable high-speed internet access: "We need a rural internet initiative," Siegel says, "to help ranchers and farmers."
Also at the top of people's minds is public education – "they don't want vouchers, and they want to take care of retired teachers." Finally, he mentions infrastructure needs, especially in and near Houston after Hurricane Harvey. "People are only now getting back to the status quo before the storm, and they worry that [the dams] are not going to withstand catastrophic failure."
He says President Trump has not been what comes up first in TX-10 – "he's just not a kitchen-table issue." To the extent that people raise that question, it's indirectly, Siegel says, as in recent conversations with some West Austin Republicans. "They were saying, 'We've got to protect the safety net, and restore common decency to government,'" he recalls. "We need a Democratic Congress, because we've got to get this government under control."
Siegel adds that his campaign's internal polling – "within the margin of error on a generic ballot" – suggests that he's not so far behind as people might think. "Because he's had it so easy with the gerrymander, McCaul's not had to cultivate much love or support in the district. We've had a lot of opportunity to win over voters," he adds: "We feel like we've had a lot of momentum." With a month to go, and early voting beginning Oct. 22, Siegel will need it.
FiveThirtyEight odds of D pickup: 1 in 20 (4.8%)
Michael McCaul: "[I] voted against the Bailouts, against the Stimulus, against Cap and Trade and against Obamacare. ... [I am] ranked in the top 20 of most conservative members of the House of Representatives."
Other candidates: Mike Ryan (Libertarian)
Money race (as of June 30):
Siegel: $175,000 raised, $47,000 cash on hand
McCaul: $1.3 million raised, $438,000 COH
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