This is a big election year up and down the ballot. Many of the races in ESD’s districts are going to be competitive, a change from years past when these districts were almost guaranteed to go Republican.
A major disrupter in this trend occurred two years ago when Democrat Colin Allred defeated Republican Pete Sessions, who had occupied the seat since its creation in 2003. This year is going to be competitive as Allred seeks re-election against Republican Genevieve Collins. Both candidates grew up in Texas. Allred grew up in Dallas, attending Hillcrest High School. He went on to receive a full-ride scholarship to play football at Baylor University in Waco and later played in the NFL, while Collins graduated from Highland Park High School, went on to row at the University of Tennessee and later graduated from Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business. Collins also has ties to the Dallas political scene as her grandmother, Calvert Collins, was the first woman elected to the Dallas City Council. Despite the candidates’ shared Texan roots, their visions differ. Allred describes himself as a moderate Democrat who believes in affordable healthcare for all, quality education and building an economy that everyone benefits from. Collins, on the other hand, is a conservative Republican who believes in strong national and border security, preserving American’s Second Amendment rights and financial freedom.
The fight for Texas House District 114 is also projected to be competitive. Republican Luisa Del Rosal is challenging Democratic incumbent John Turner. Republican Jason Villalba had occupied this seat since 2012 but lost to conservative Republican Lisa Luby Ryan in the 2018 primaries. In the general election, Turner beat Ryan by 11 points, flipping the district. Turner, a moderate democrat, supports expanding healthcare, better funding for public schools, and improving the foster care system. Del Rosal is advocating for investing in education, affordable health insurance and property tax relief.
Another major election is for one of Texas’ seats in the U.S. Senate, in which the winner will join Ted Cruz. Democrat MJ Hegar is challenging long-time incumbent and Republican John Cornyn. Hegar is a decorated veteran, known for being the lead plaintiff in a 2012 case against the military’s Combat Exclusion Policy. Cornyn has been in politics his whole career, serving on the Texas Supreme Court and stepping down seven years later to become the Attorney General. Cornyn supports repealing Obamacare, increased penalties for gun violence and increased border security. Hegar, on the other hand, is a strong climate change activist, supporter of Roe v. Wade and believer in the medicare system.
While many are predicting a Republican victory, polling indicates that Cornyn is only ahead by single digits: this combined with Ted Cruz’s very slight win in 2018 is making democrats more hopeful that Hegar will come out on top.
Continuing the trend of competition in 2020’s races, this may be the year Texas turns blue. Texas, with 38 electoral votes, hasn’t gone for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1976 when Jimmy Carter won the state, yet recent polling has indicated that Texas might be a toss-up. Many have noted that President Trump’s handling of the pandemic is a key factor in voters’ minds. Junior Kate Elliston expects that many of the year’s events will play a large part in shaping voters’ opinions and ultimate votes.
“I believe this race will be very close due to the already projected results and votes from each state,” Elliston said. “With COVID-19 and new social injustice movements prevalent in today’s society, I feel there is a sharper divide in society that will reflect voting for this year. It also comes down to the nature of our nation right now and the actions each candidate is taking to compensate for those.”
How competitive these races are highlights the importance of voting. According to the Pew Research Institute, only 56% of the voting age population cast a ballot in the 2016 election. Many believe that their vote has no effect on the results of the election; however this is not the case. Each vote goes toward the popular vote in each state, which directly influences the vote of that state’s electors.
Many also opt out of voting in the more local elections, when these, in fact, can prove to be more directly influential on everyday lives. “So much of what happens is actually controlled at the state and local level,” US History teacher Claire Mrozek said. “Many people either pay all their attention to national issues or get so turned off by things on the national stage that they give up…The national conversation needs us all to represent our views at the polls. These issues affect all of us; you have to find out what you think and vote accordingly.”