Wednesday, November 6, 2013 by Gene Davis
The House District 50 race is headed to a runoff.
Of four candidates, Republican Dr. Mike VanDeWalle and Democrat Celia Israel ended the race comfortably in first and second place, though neither secured a majority of the vote. Israel and VanDeWalle will face off in a runoff election on a date yet to be determined but probably in January –Gov. Rick Perry will need to set the date – and the winner will take the Texas House seat vacated by former State Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin), who unexpectedly resigned in June to become the head of Google Fiber in Austin.
VanDeWalle, the only Republican candidate in the race, finished in first place with 5,584 votes (39.16 percent), according to unofficial results. A North Travis chiropractor who grew up on an Iowa farm, VanDeWalle believes his message of lowering taxes and reducing regulation on small businesses will connect with voters in a runoff election.
“Even though a Democrat has been in the (House District 50) office for some time, there is a real conservative streak (in the district),” he said.
Israel, a realtor who served in the Ann Richards administration, finished in second place with 4,469 votes (31.86), according to unofficial results. Israel credited her grassroots campaign for getting her to a runoff election. She added that she believes the progressives in House District 50 are motivated to see the seat remain in Democratic control.
“If (Democratic voters weren’t with me), I hope that they will be with me in a runoff situation,” she said. “We will make sure we will reach out so they know we are all one Democratic family.”
Jade Chang Sheppard, a Taiwanese-American who owns a construction company based in San Antonio, placed third with 2,197 votes (15.63 percent), according to unofficial results. During her campaign, Sheppard said she would work as a state representative to improve schools, achieve pay equality for women and make higher education more affordable.
Sheppard’s campaign could not be immediately reached for comment about the election results.
Rico Reyes, a former Travis County Assistant District Attorney and U.S. Marine reservist, finished the race in last place with 1,882 votes (13.35 percent). Campaign manager Matt Glazer said Reyes is proud of the conversations he had with constituents throughout the campaign.
“Our ultimate goal continues to be the same, which is to make sure this seat remains in Democratic control,” Glazer said.
House District 50 stretches from Round Rock to Webberville. Strama represented the district from 2004–2013.
The winner of a runoff election will not have much time to get comfortable in their new position if they want to stay there for a few years; each party will select a candidate for the seat in next March’s primary and those winners will face each other in the November 2014 General Election.
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