James Talarico and David Alcorta Lay Out Progressive Agendas for HD 50
Talarico, Alcorta Lay Out Progressive Agendas for HD 50
By Austin Sanders, Fri., Feb. 11, 2022
Normally, Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, doesn't like carpetbaggers who go to new districts to find less competitive races. But as he told the Chronicle, "I lived in the newly drawn HD 50 for 20 years." He grew up in the Wells Branch area that straddles the Travis/Williamson county line and thus both his old and new stomping grounds. "When the district opened up, it just felt right to run here."
Despite winning the GOP-held open House District 52 seat in the blue wave of 2018 and holding it in the much more purple tide of 2020, and despite having backing in those races by WilCo Republicans such as his predecessor Larry Gonzales, and despite having come back early from the House Dems' summer quorum break to mend fences with his colleagues, Talarico was still targeted by House GOP mapmakers, the only incumbent Central Texas Democrat whose seat was made less safe during redistricting. So he crossed back over the county line to HD 50, which is being vacated by Austin mayoral candidate Rep. Celia Israel. Talarico, who at 32 is currently the youngest member of the Lege, will face off against an even younger challenger in David Alcorta, 26, in the March 1 primary. The winner will face off against Victor Johnson, running unopposed in the Republican primary.
In Talarico's two legislative sessions, he's established himself as a progressive lawmaker capable of brokering deals with Republicans – like the House version of a bill he sponsored which capped the price of insulin at $25 per prescription (Talarico himself was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago). He's also gaining some House procedural acumen – a crucial set of Lege skills that, when used effectively, can kill bad bills. With Texas Democrats looking at a few more likely cycles in the minority, those skills would be especially important. During the regular session last spring, Talarico raised a point of order that killed the House version of anti-"critical race theory" legislation, forcing Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to amend the Senate's companion bill with softened language. If reelected, Talarico said his main priorities would be in pushing back against the "anti-democracy movement within the GOP" by working to undo some of the harmful legislation passed last year attacking voting and reproductive rights.
Alcorta comes to the race with experience on several campaigns, including Beto O'Rourke's 2018 U.S. Senate bid, and a session at the Legislature as a policy aide for Rep. Rhetta Bowers, D-Garland. He's campaigning on a decidedly further-left platform than Talarico: abolishing "right to work" rules, increasing the state minimum wage to $15 per hour, and ensuring every worker has paid vacation, sick days, and family leave.
Alcorta was born in San Antonio, but moved to Virginia when he was eight, returning in 2018. He's well aware of Texas' firm opposition to workers' rights in the name of business interests, but he remains undeterred. Watching the Texas Republican Party lurch hard toward the extreme right has taught Alcorta the value of fighting for what you believe in – even if it's against the status quo. "Too many times our legislators don't pursue something if they don't think it will pass into law," Alcorta said of his ambitious policy platform. "But you can't be afraid of that, because not passing a bill isn't a failure. Organizing around an issue puts pressure among fellow Democrats session after session. Eventually, with enough public pressure, you can get enough support to get some of these progressive policies passed."
Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.