Two years ago, Democrat challenger Mike Siegel turned a solidly Republican district into a real race, closing the gap down to about four points from nine. Incumbent Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) avoided the “Blue Wave” spurred by Beto O’Rourke’s run for U.S. Senate and the $80 million-plus dollars that came with his candidacy but will face Siegel once again.
Siegel fended off Pritesh Gandhi by nine points in the Democrat primary runoff last month, securing his spot in the general election against McCaul.
McCaul is in his eighth term representing the 10th Congressional District which spans as far west as Travis County and as far east as Harris County.
In Congress, he has focused heavily on foreign policy and national security issues — especially when it comes to China, its role as the origin of coronavirus, and the maneuvers of its state-owned communications magnate Huawei.
Siegel, meanwhile, is a civil rights lawyer and a former participant in Teach for America. Siegel is a dyed-in-the-wool progressive that supports initiatives like the Green New Deal, making state universities tuition-free, the formation of a single-payer “Medicare for All” healthcare system, and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants residing in the U.S.
McCaul’s campaign refers to Siegel as “the most radical liberal running for Congress in the entire country.”
He’s been endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as well as the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club.
Siegel, meanwhile, has hit McCaul for his support of President Trump’s policies and for “not holding a public event for 11 years.”
A cornerstone issue in this race is one of the most important for the State of Texas: energy. One of the provisions of the broad Green New Deal is a reinstatement of the ban on crude oil exports. In 2015, as part of a compromise between congressional Republicans and President Obama, the longtime ban on the exportation of crude oil was removed.
This policy change contributed significantly to the energy renaissance the U.S., and Texas has experienced over the last decade. The U.S. is the world-leading energy producer and turns out nearly 20 percent of the global crude oil.
But Siegel is of the opinion that fossil fuel usage is damaging the climate and the nation should thus wean itself away from reliance on them. The Green New Deal proposes wind and solar energy to supplant fossil fuels. But this suggestion comes with serious problems.
In Texas, the energy grid share by wind and solar is over 20 percent; most of which is attributed to wind. However, a 100-percent renewable grid would face the problems of inconsistent production and storage capacity limitations. With current technology, obtaining the sheer amount of rare-Earth materials needed to produce the batteries required to store electricity is logistically improbable, if not impossible.
Additionally, Texas’ oil and gas industry, despite the recent downturn, still employs hundreds of thousands of people, all of which would be out of a job if the industry disappeared tomorrow. The cost of the Green New Deal overhaul amounts to $6.6 trillion, three times what the U.S. collects in tax revenues every year.
That expenditure would, in part, finance jobs overhauling American infrastructure and its energy grid. On his website, Siegel says his plan would “guarantee a just transition for affected workers and their families, including a jobs guarantee, so they will not suffer as we rebuild the American economy.”
McCaul, meanwhile, remains soundly opposed to this proposal and has touted America’s “energy independence” driven by oil and gas.
However, the term “energy independent” is a misnomer. The U.S. still relies on energy from abroad but has recently become an energy net-exporter, meaning it exports more than it imports. But due to geographic and logistical reasons, parts of the U.S. still import oil and gas from other countries as it is more efficient than getting it domestically.
Another systematic overhaul Siegel advocates is aimed at healthcare. Implementing “Medicare for All” would cost, at least, $32 trillion and would constitute essentially expanding the current Medicare system to cover all Americans.
McCaul is opposed to that expansion but wants to preserve Medicare for those it currently serves: individuals 65-years-of-age or older. Pertaining to the current system, he sponsored legislation to prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
This is a double-edged sword and is an issue Republicans have struggled to nail down a solid solution for. While that prohibition requires that individuals who might otherwise be considered too costly to insure are not denied coverage by insurance companies, it applies an upward force on pricing for every consumer in that coverage pool.
In other words, healthy customers subsidize the unhealthy ones.
But the question of pre-existing condition coverage is one of emotional attachment for voters, and has significant support. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from 2019 found that 68 percent of Americans did not want the Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare’s pre-existing condition protection mandate.
McCaul also touts his support for employer-provided health coverage as opposed to “socialized medicine.” But there is at least one other model: direct care.
Direct care is essentially the model that existed before the Great Depression in which employer-based coverage became a method of attracting workers to employers.
Not only have healthcare costs risen significantly year-after-year, but so have insurance costs, which has driven more and more consumers to choose to be uninsured or to the direct care model as traditional care becomes more data-driven and less personalized.
Another issue Siegel has focused on is police-community relations. After the death of George Floyd, an array of “Defund the Police” proposals swept the nation’s cities and Siegel supports many of these same proposals such as ending qualified immunity, redirecting police funding to other services, and decriminalizing “non-violent offenses.”
McCaul has stated his opposition to the “Defund the Police” movement.
While McCaul won by four points in 2018, Democratic challenger for Senate Beto O’Rourke narrowly edged Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the 10th Congressional District by fewer than 600 votes. Governor Greg Abbott won the district by 10 points.
Two years prior, Donald Trump won by roughly nine points.
The race between McCaul and Siegel may not be the most highly-watched Congressional race this fall, but the rematch will make for an interesting data point on the durability of the 2018 “Blue Wave” in Texas.
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Brad Johnson is 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 watching and quoting Monty Python productions.