After losing 12 state House seats during the 2018 elections, Republicans are setting their sights on regaining as much ground as possible and maintaining their majority going into 2020, while Democrats are aiming to solidify their gains and possibly vie for control of the House.
House District 45, formerly represented by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) for four terms, turned blue in 2018.
In 2017, Isaac announced he would not run for reelection and instead decided to run for Congress in the 21st Congressional District.
He ultimately came up short in the primary and the seat was eventually won by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21).
There were five Republican candidates who ran to replace Isaac in HD 45 during the 2018 primary. Ken Strange emerged as the nominee.
In the Democrat field, three candidates vied for the nomination. Erin Zwiener won the runoff against Rebecca Bell-Metereau and proceeded to win the general election against Strange 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent with a difference of just over 2,000 votes.
This was a stark contrast to the 2016 cycle, where Isaac ran unopposed in not only the primary, but in the general election as well.
The political history and demographics of this district make it a prime target for Republicans this cycle. Already, three GOP candidates have thrown their proverbial hats in the ring and more are expected to file in the coming weeks.
Carrie Isaac, the wife of former Rep. Jason Isaac, announced her candidacy on April 5.
She serves as the executive director of an Austin-based non-profit that helps disabled veterans find employment.
Austin Talley, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2018, announced he’ll be running once again this cycle. A veteran of the United States Marines Corp, he’s currently a businessman living in Kyle.
Kent “Bud” Wymore is a practicing lawyer and the former chairman of the Hays County Republican Party. He resides in Driftwood, which also happens to be Rep. Zwiener’s hometown.
Zwiener was one of the more vocal freshmen this legislative session, and could routinely be found joining her fellow Democrat colleagues on the floor to oppose legislation she viewed as controversial.
Zwiener is a founding member of the LGBTQ Caucus and according to Rice University fellow Mark Jones’ analysis, Zwiener ranked as the 6th most liberal member of the Texas House.
As of the time of publishing, no Democrats have filed to run against Zwiener in the primary election.
Though Democrats flipped HD 45 in the House, the district is still treated by both political parties as very much in play.
In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lost HD 45 by a whopping 12 points to Beto O’Rourke.
Governor Greg Abbott won the district by a narrow 1.6 points.
HD 45 encompasses all of Hays and Blanco counties and includes Johnson City, Dripping Springs, Blanco, Kyle, and San Marcos. Its close proximity to Austin and San Antonio has resulted in increased rates of population growth, and the district has seen an influx of new residents in recent years, many of whom are transplants from more urban areas of the state.
It remains to be seen exactly if that influx has affected the district’s political composition in the long term.
Republicans argue that the “Beto effect” ultimately yielded the win for Zwiener, while Democrats maintain that the district will remain solidly blue in light of the addition of so many urban Austinites.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated HD 45 candidate Austin Talley served in the United States Marine Corps when he served in the United States Navy. A previous version incorrectly stated there was a runoff in the HD 45 Republican primary in 2018.
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McKenzie Taylor serves as Senior Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.