House District (HD) 73, currently represented by Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) who is not seeking re-election, was redrawn to create two safe Republican seats in this district and HD 19. Its neighboring HD 45, meanwhile, was consolidated into the other half of Hays County to fuse the county’s Democratic support into one seat occupied by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood).
In the original plan, Zwiener’s residence was drawn into HD 73, but an amendment placed it back into HD 45.
According to The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index, the seat is rated R-71%. Three GOP candidates are vying for the position: Carrie Isaac, Barron Casteel, and George Green.
Isaac, the wife of former state Rep. Jason Isaac, lost her 2020 challenge to Zwiener but is now back for a second run at a House seat. Casteel is the former mayor of New Braunfels who did not seek re-election in 2020, and Green is a former New Braunfels city councilman.
Casteel has the edge so far on fundraising, having raised $200,000 to Isaac’s $140,000. Green has not reported any raised funds.
The former mayor has the endorsements of the Texas Municipal Police Association, the New Braunfels Police Officers Association, and Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler. Isaac boasts support from Texas Values Action, Gun Owners of America and Texas Gun Rights, along with a bevy of elected state officials including Biedermann.
Another dividing-line endorsement between the two is on the pro-life issue. Isaac is supported by Texas Right to Life while Casteel is backed by Texas Alliance for Life — two organizations that often fall on opposite sides of intra-GOP fights.
The three candidates share much in their platforms: border security, stopping abortions, protecting gun rights, eliminating Critical Race Theory themes in schools, beefing up police departments, trimming government spending, and preservation of the Hill Country’s natural resources all appear on each candidate’s repertoire.
But some differences exist.
For example, Isaac has called for the elimination of renewable energy subsidies or for the establishment of a mechanism to force renewable generators to “shoulder the costs of unreliability” caused by the “market-distorting effects that subsidies have had on our grid.” The collection of subsidies allow renewable generators to break even by selling their electricity at negative prices.
Casteel, meanwhile, highlights opposition to mask and vaccine mandates. “[T]he state must ensure there are NO mandates regarding vaccines and masks,” his website reads. “Our state has never engaged in a policy of mandating a vaccine, and your healthcare decisions should always be yours to make as an individual.”
In an interview on his website, Green identifies his top two priorities as providing responsive constituent services and pushing back on “government overreach.”
Casteel and Isaac have clashed some during the campaign. Isaac’s first television ad knocks Casteel for “vot[ing] to raise property taxes every year in office.” Casteel countered the claim, saying that “As Mayor of New Braunfels, not only did I never let the tax rate increase, I lowered the property tax rate — even in the midst of a booming growth in population.”
Property tax rates compiled by the Comal County Tax Office show that the 2015 rate did not change the following year, then it dropped slightly in 2017, where it remained until 2020 when the city implemented a larger drop. But keeping steady or reducing the rate is not the same thing as reducing property tax bills.
Not once during his tenure did the City of New Braunfels adopt the “no-new-revenue” tax rate — the rate at which total property tax collections are kept the same save for any new property added to the rolls. With constantly rising appraisals, even with a rate reduction property tax bills increase unless the no-new-revenue rate, or a rate lower than that, is adopted.
Isaac also hit Casteel for “bragging about [coronavirus] lockdowns.” As mayor, Casteel issued a “Stay Home-Work Safe Order” that required all businesses deemed “non-essential” to cease operations.
In the same ad, Isaac accused Casteel of “giving a platform to an anti-gun group.” This claim, Isaac’s campaign informed The Texan, is in reference to a 2018 tweet by local activists from Mom’s Demand Action thanking Casteel “for proclaiming June first National Gun Violence Awareness Day in New Braunfels, Texas.”
Mom’s Demand Action’s mission was formed in the days after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting with the mission to lobby for “stronger gun laws and work to close the loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our families.”
Each of the candidates was given the highest rating by the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, but none are explicitly endorsed as the organization only outright endorses incumbents.
Casteel has not yet released a similar negative ad against Isaac.
If no candidate reaches 50 percent in the March 1 primary, the top two candidates will move to a runoff. And with the district leaning so heavily toward the GOP, the Republican nominee will likely avoid a challenge in the general election.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include mention of the tweet by Mom’s Demand Action.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.