Longtimer Doggett and Three Political Outsiders Vie to Represent the Newly Formed 37th Congressional District
This compact new district encompasses almost all of Austin west of I-35
By Beth Sullivan, Fri., Feb. 4, 2022
Come November, Austin voters will be tasked with electing the first representative of Texas' newly created 37th congressional district. Formed as a result of the 2020 redistricting process, TX-37 is a relatively compact district, located almost entirely within the boundaries of Travis County and encompassing almost all of the city of Austin west of I-35.
In a comfortably Democratic district, the race has drawn four Democratic challengers for the March 1 primary, with Rep. Lloyd Doggett and software engineer Donna Imam leading the pack in name recognition and fundraising. A member of U.S. Congress since 1995, Doggett left his decadelong tenure representing the now-contested 35th congressional district to run in TX-37. Doggett said his decision to run in TX-37 was spurred by his deep history as a longtime Austinite. "Austin is the only town I've ever called home. District 37 encompasses the areas that I grew up in, went to school in, worked in, [and] lived in," Doggett told the Chronicle. "Being able to focus all of my attention on my hometown rather than on being divided among different communities is really important to me." He also said his decision to leave TX-35 makes it more likely that a Hispanic lawmaker will represent the predominantly Hispanic district. (Greg Casar, Eddie Rodriguez, Carla-Joy Sisco, and Rebecca J. Viagran are running in the Democratic primary to fill Doggett's TX-35 seat.)
Doggett and Imam will face off in TX-37 against Austin businessman and political first-timer Christopher Jones and self-identified digital marketing professional Quinton "Q" Beaubouef. Meanwhile, Republican voters will have to decide between Navy veteran Jeremiah Diacogiannis; Jenny Garcia Sharon, who lost to Doggett in the 2020 race for TX-35; and Rod Lingsch, who was defeated in the 2020 Republican primary for TX-34.
Imam, an engineer and entrepreneur, will be a familiar name to some Austinites following her (unsuccessful) bid against incumbent Rep. John Carter in the 2020 race for the reliably red 31st congressional district. Outside of her 2020 congressional campaign – which witnessed her primary victory over Christine Eady Mann – Imam is still a political newcomer. Imam, however, is leaning into that outsider identity. "Congress needs leadership in science and technology to usher in the next generation of technologies for our country and for our success. And right now, Congress could use that," Imam told the Chronicle. Among Imam's top priorities is establishing a "uniform" federally funded response to homelessness nationwide. Another priority of Imam's this election echoes the "health care for all" policy proposal that she supported in 2020, which advocates for a single-payer that "fortifies and accelerates" a Medicare for All program. Imam's health care vision would seek to "lower the cost of health care drastically by scaling the health care infrastructure by increasing the number of doctors and nurses and focusing on preventative care in primary care."
Meanwhile, Doggett's top priorities address voting rights, which he sees as fitting within an overarching commitment to preserving democracy. Reproductive freedom and protection of access to abortion have only become more critical in light of the Texas Legislature's attack on abortion rights last year with the passage of Senate Bill 8, added Doggett. Overlapping with reproductive freedom is improving health care access for all Texans. Doggett has long championed Medicaid expansion in Texas, and last year he unveiled his COVER Now Act, a local-level solution for states that refuse to expand Medicaid coverage. He pointed to his recent success with some health care provisions in the Build Back Better Act, including a special ACA Marketplace plan allowing the Medicaid expansion population to qualify for no-premium policies that will "provide most of what a Medicaid coverage would provide." (The provision would be four years, not permanent.)
In comments to the Chronicle, Doggett pointed to his opponents' lack of political experience as a key factor in what sets him apart. "I've tried to represent people across the community knowing that they have been divested of any representation by Republican gerrymandering. That is a pretty significant contrast between myself and these [three] individuals."
Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.