Elections 2022Local NewsWilliamson County House Seat Pits Republican Caroline Harris Against Democrat Luis Echegaray

The Austin exurb is one of the fastest-growing areas of the state as a tech giant expands operations in Taylor.
November 3, 2022
Caroline Harris is among the handful of Republicans seeking election to the Texas House who had a competitive primary and faces a competitive general.

Running in Williamson County’s newly drawn House District (HD) 52 — rated R-55% by The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index, which analyzes partisan leanings of districts based on past election results — Harris is the candidate to beat in the GOP-favored but not GOP-guaranteed race.

Harris, a staffer in state Sen. Bryan Hughes’ (R-Mineola) office, looks to cross the Capitol rotunda into the opposite chamber — this time as a member.

She has a massive fundraising advantage over Democrat Luis Echegaray, having raised and spent well over half a million dollars this year to his under-$30,000. Harris also has many of the GOP’s big guns lining up behind her, with endorsements from both Gov. Greg Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry, Hughes, and Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), who has tossed in $25,000 from his campaign to push Harris over the finish line.

The Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC — a prolific spender in Texas legislative races — paid $235,000 for advertising on Harris’ behalf along with a $19,000 direct mail expenditure in October.

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Last month, Harris’ primary runoff opponent Patrick McGuinness endorsed her bid.

Echegaray, an Army veteran, has been endorsed by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, along with nearly 230 other candidates across Texas and the Texas Democratic Veterans Caucus.

Echegaray did not return an interview request, but lists out his priorities online, which include opposition to any legal restrictions on abortion: “politicians should not be involved in life or death medical decisions”; support for raising the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21 and red flag laws; expanding Medicaid; halting Operation Lone Star; and increasing the state’s share of public school financing to 60 percent along with a pension cost-of-living adjustment for teachers.

Many of the district’s concerns — property taxes, classroom space, infrastructure, and housing availability — center on one thing more than any other: rapid population growth.

“One of the top things I heard over and over again [while knocking doors] is to secure the border,” Harris said in June on The Texan’s podcast. “When touring the border, I asked a sheriff how it affects Williamson County, and he said he’s got a gang member in jail in Del Rio from Austin. If they’re in Austin, they’re in Williamson County. Nothing that happens at the border stays there.”

She further underscored the importance of infrastructure to her district. “Locally, infrastructure is a huge deal in Williamson County — we’re growing so fast,” she added. “I know everyone knows Samsung is moving into Taylor, so those roads really need to be fixed and we need further preparation for the growth that’s coming.”

Samsung is building a $17 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility in Taylor and the local government there is rushing to set things in order, including and especially on the infrastructure side — processes that have rankled locals as some property owners win out, including the mayor’s family, and others lose in the new zoning plan.

Harris continued, “Part of the reason for the growth is that Austin has become a mini California — crime rates are so high, the cost of living is absolutely insane, and so everyone is moving north into Williamson County.”

On school-related concerns, Harris said she’s heard a lot about “giving parents more of a say and more of a choice” in their children’s schools. “We need to get public education back to reading, writing, and arithmetic — we just have to — and we need to expand options for school choice in this state. We need to give parents more of a say in what education model fits their child best,” she said.

Should Harris win, Republicans will flip one of the seats they lost in the 2018 “Beto-wave,” albeit with redistricting doing much of the heavy lifting.

The seat is open after state Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) decided to jump county lines to run in the open HD 50 in Austin.


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Brad Johnson

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.