The Austin Chronicle

Greg Casar’s Landslide Win Virtually Ensures TX-35 Seat

Plus where other races stand

By Austin Sanders, March 4, 2022, News

Former Austin City Council Member Greg Casar won big on election night in the four-way race for Texas' 35th Congressional District. The Austin progressive ended the night with an impressive 61% of the vote districtwide, according to Decision Desk HQ; Austin state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former San Antonio Council Member Rebecca Viagran each earned about 15%.

"I'm really proud that our message won from San Antonio all the way up to Austin," Casar told the Chronicle of his landslide victory. "We hoped that a message of $15 an hour [federal minimum wage], Medicare for All, and reproductive rights would carry the day, and it did. But it wasn't just about me or our campaign, it was about those issues that resonate with Texas voters and working families."

Voters within the new boundaries of TX-35 preferred Joe Biden by 46 points in the last election, so Casar is virtually ensured a seat among the Squad come January. Unlike like-minded Jessica Cis­ner­os, who faces a steep climb in TX-28 to both defeat incumbent U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar in a May run-off and then beat back a staunch GOP challenge in the general, Casar can immediately work to help the progressive movement beyond his own campaign for Congress.

Part of that work will bring Casar back to his organizer roots. "Between now and November we're going to drive turnout in this district to beat people like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick," he said. But he also wants to build support for institutional reform at the federal level, like abolishing the filibuster in the U.S. Senate while "organizing in our communities to take care of workers" by supporting emerging unionization efforts, such as at Starbucks in San Antonio and among hotel workers in Austin.

Casar's departure for D.C. comes at a time when two of his most ambitious progressive policy projects – a focused effort to house the unhoused and attempts to rein in mindlessly escalating police spending – remain under assault from local and state conservatives. Rodriguez tried to make Casar's push to decriminalize homelessness a campaign issue, a fact Casar made subtle reference to, before saying that the election results show voters want to see more criminal justice reform and more support for the poor who lack housing. "We have to keep pressing on these issues and I'm still committed to making sure we win justice on them," Casar told us.

Rodriguez gave up the Texas House seat he's held for two decades to finish a distant second, so what he'll do in January is not yet clear. In a tweet, Rodriguez congratulated Casar and thanked his family, staff, and supporters for their help during the campaign. "I look forward to assisting in any way possible to ensure that Democrats are victorious in November and continuing to serve my community," he wrote.

Meanwhile, TX-35 incumbent Lloyd Dog­gett is on his way to a 15th term in Congress, but in a different district (the new TX-37, anchored in Central and West Austin) with his sixth new set of redistricted constituents since his first race in 1994. Doggett crushed his three opponents, with nearly 80% of the Democratic vote. "Thank you all for the encouragement and support to represent the only place I've ever called home," Doggett wrote in a tweet following his early victory. "From the courthouse, to the statehouse, to Congress, I am working for Democratic victories this November."

Most of Travis County and the city of Austin lie within the new TX-35 and TX-37; the remainder is held by three GOP incumbents: Reps. Michael McCaul, R-West Lake Hills (unopposed in the primary), Pete Sessions, R-Waco (an easy winner over Jason "Storm­chaser" Nelson and two others), and Chip Roy, R-Dripping Springs (an even bigger winner over a weak field). Roy's TX-21, which covers most of the Hill Country but stretches into Southwest Austin, was the only of these to have a contested Democratic primary; with 47% of the vote, Claudia Zapata leads Ricardo Villarreal going into that May run-off.

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