The Austin Chronicle

Race for Congressional District 31 Is Down to Two Dem Candidates

Run-off winner will challenge GOP incumbent Rep. John Carter

By Michael King, March 13, 2020, News

The Congressional District 31 Democratic primary race has finally been winnowed down to two candidates. Family physician Christine Eady Mann will face software engineer Donna Imam in the May 26 run-off, with the winner to challenge incumbent Rep. John Carter, who easily won the GOP nomination against three under-resourced challengers.

Mann is on her second run, having lost in 2018 to MJ Hegar (now running for U.S. Senate), who lost narrowly to Carter but can take credit for putting the district in play. First-timer Imam, a businesswoman and engineer, has run an unorthodox campaign but has the resources – including her own whopping $100,000 personal loan to the campaign – to make a serious run. Among the six balloted candidates, Mann garnered 35% and Imam 31%. Third-place finisher Tammy Young, a Round Rock City Council member, filed late but managed 14% of the vote. Michael Grimes got 11%, although he had withdrawn for family reasons several weeks before election day. Eric Hanke and Dan Janjigian divided 10% between them.

Mann said health care has been uppermost among TX-31 voters' concerns, and reiterated the importance of "making sure that every American has access to health care from birth to death," which she says can be achieved in a Canadian-style universal system that enables both single-payer and private insurance. Imam, who began her campaign by touting a personalized version of "Health Care for All," has in her TV ads adopted "Medicare for All," which she would "accelerate" by incentivizing medical specialists to perform primary care work. Mann, trained as a primary care physician, says that strategy is simply "not feasible."

The run-off may test whether such distinctions can make a public impact in the few weeks of the campaign. It will also test whether Imam will continue her somewhat below-the-radar campaign, avoiding public candidate forums and press coverage for more block-walking and online and TV outreach.

On the Republican side, Carter may be comforted by the 82% support he won on March 3, but other numbers might be more concerning. About 64,000 people voted in the GOP congressional primary, while more than 69,000 voted in the Democratic primary. TX-31, comprising Williamson and Bell Counties, is the most "compact and contiguous" of the six congressional districts that cross Austin, which now includes an increasingly populous section of Williamson. Whoever survives the Democratic run-off will be hoping that turnout edge can be maintained in November.

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