It’s no secret that the rural parts of Texas typically vote for Republican candidates while urban centers like Austin and San Antonio tend to vote for Democratic candidates.
As a result, districts comprised of both urban and rural regions are often the most contested in general elections.
Such is the case for House District 45, which covers Hays and Blanco counties between Austin and San Antonio.
Hays County, being one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, is the larger of the two counties, with a current estimated population of over 222,000 residents.
Blanco County, meanwhile, has some 12,000 residents.
While it fit closer to the ideal state house district size of around 168,000 residents when it last redistricted, the population boom in Hays County means that it will likely be redistricted again after the 2020 census.
The district, which included Caldwell County before the 2010 census, has been won by Democrats and Republicans in recent history, at both wide and narrow margins.
In 2002, Democrat Patrick Rose unseated Republican incumbent Rep. Rick Green by a narrow margin of 0.88 percent.
Rose went on to win the next three elections by more comfortable margins — the widest being by 24.28 percent in 2006.
In 2010, though, Republican Jason Isaac defeated Rose in the general election by 7.82 percent.
He won the next three elections, securing a 45.28 percent lead over his Democratic opponent in 2014 and running unopposed in the 2016 general election.
In 2017, he decided to not seek reelection to the Texas House and ran for U.S. Congress in the 21st Congressional District.
After the primary races in 2018, the general election for the open seat came down to a battle between Republican nominee Ken Strange and Democrat Erin Zwiener.
Zwiener won by a slight 3.2 percent margin.
During the legislative session last year, Zwiener proved to be one of the most progressive members in the state house, according to rankings from Rice University fellow Mark Jones.
Zwiener, who identifies as bisexual, was one of the founding members of the LGBTQ Caucus and was vocal in opposing the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill,” arguing during the final floor debate, “Members, this bill will make the LGBTQ community feel less-than, feel attacked by our government. I ask members to think about who this bill would be hurting.”
According to the latest financial reports, Zwiener currently has $75,000 cash on hand and has spent $56,000 already.
She has been endorsed by several progressive organizations, including the Texas AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, and Everytown for Gun Safety.
One Democratic candidate, Liliana Posada, has filed to run against Zwiener, though Posada has neither raised or spent any money on the campaign and does not appear to have a campaign presence online.
Carrie Isaac is the wife of Jason Isaac, who previously served as the representative for the district.
She has served in several non-profit organizations, including her current role as the executive director of the Digital Education and Work Initiative of Texas.
Isaac has raised the most out of the Republican candidates, with currently $109,000 cash on hand, having spent another $56,000.
Like the other Republican candidates, the issue positions she lists on her website checks the conservative boxes of being pro-life, supportive of the Second Amendment, wanting to direct education funding to the classroom, stop soaring property taxes, and secure the border.
Isaac has been particularly sharp against Zwiener for her progressive actions in the last legislative session, criticizing the incumbent for voting against a bill to protect the right of licensed individuals to carry firearms in places of worship and also for authoring one of the so-called “ban the Bible” bills, as referred to by conservative organizations.
She has also received a plethora of notable endorsements from conservative organizations and Republican leaders, including the National Rifle Association, the Texas Homeschool Coalition PAC, Texas Right to Life, Texas Values Action, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, and several current and former state representatives — including, unsurprisingly, former state Rep. Jason Isaac.
Austin Talley is a Navy veteran, business owner, and works with non-profit organizations to help other veterans in need.
He also touts strong conservative positions on issues, including calling for constitutional carry in the state of Texas and supporting term limits for elected officials.
Out of the three Republican candidates, he has raised the least, with a little under $1,000 cash on hand according to the latest finance reports, though he has spent about $8,700 already.
Kent “Bud” Wymore is a lawyer and the former chairman of the Hays County Republican Party.
He takes similar positions on issues as the other GOP candidates, though also notes an infrastructure need in the rapidly growing district to “strike a responsible balance between preparing for growth and preserving what we love about this place we call home.”
Wymore currently has $80,000 cash on hand and has spent $38,000 so far.
On Monday, February 3, the Blanco County GOP will be hosting a forum with the three candidates.
If none of the candidates are able to secure over 50 percent of the vote in the March primary election, a runoff between the top two Republican candidates will be held in May to determine who will go on to likely challenge Zwiener in the general election.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.