Mike Siegel and the Race for Texas 10
Mike Siegel is a civil rights lawyer and former educator who is looking for a second chance to take on and beat Republican Mike McCaul after running for the same seat in 2018. Siegel’s prior experience is a big advantage in his race against Pritesh Gandhi, the fellow Democrat challenging Siegel in the runoff; on average, in competitive races, progressive Congressional candidates do ~7.5% better if they have already run for any office before.
Siegel’s was told he was doomed from Day One; the 10th is an R+9 district and McCaul was thought to be a strong incumbent. Siegel closed a significant gap, only losing by 4.3%. No one thought he could win and he’s back this year to prove he can. Siegel has fundraised well and has plenty of endorsements (including from Bernie Sanders) to create a strong coalition. His ties in the community from his first election will be valuable in generating enthusiasm for this run and his endorsements from local officials speak to that. He’s a strong candidate who knows how to build a movement and that’s why he is in a great position to win Tuesday night.
The 10th is home to nine counties between Austin and Houston. The swing district contains parts of Travis and Harris Counties where the majority of Democratic votes come from, both in the runoff and general elections. The smaller seven counties only made up about 15% of the votes in the Democratic runoff of 2018. Travis County (Austin) constituted 72.6% of the vote, while the Houston suburbs (Harris) made up 11.7% of the vote.
The district is slightly younger than the national average at 35.9 years average age. Black and Brown voters make up about 46% of this district, with the majority being Latino. The district, according to CityLab, has about 43% medium/high density. The vast majority of Progressive Caucus members come from dense districts; only 1 member of Congressional Progressive Caucus leadership comes from a district with less than 50% medium/high density.
During the initial primary, Siegel captured 44% of the vote to Gandhi’s 33.1%. That margin feels healthy enough to secure a victory in the runoff but there is a major unknown: Shannon Hutcheson’s voters from the first round. Hutcheson was clearly running on a more moderate platform, closer to Gandhi’s than Siegel’s. This should send up some alarm bells; Hutcheson’s voters could very well prefer the more moderate option and make this a very close race. The establishment is well aware of the fact that this is now a competitive seat and they’d like nothing more than to see Siegel fall to a candidate more in line with moderate values.
Pritesh Gandhi is a primary care doctor who boasts serious endorsements from Kamala Harris and Serve America PAC (run by Seth Moulton). These endorsements, alongside a large group of big dollar donors, has catapulted Gandhi to huge fundraising numbers. At the last filing deadline before the runoff, Gandhi had raised over 1.2 million dollars, compared to Siegel’s 864,000. It’s not all bad news though; Siegel has almost double the cash on hand and has plenty of money to make a strong push in the last few days.
Money wasn’t a major decider in the first round, however. Shannon Hutcheson had almost double Siegel’s money for the first round and she lost to him by over 20 points. Depending on how effective Gandhi is in using his funds, the difference between them might be negligible.
There has been no polling done of this race which surprises me. While I believe Siegel will win because of his experience and well run operation, I doubt it will be a blow out. Many of Hutcheson’s voters may take an endorsement from someone like Kamala Harris seriously or Gandhi’s resources to blast ads could make the difference at the very end.
A Word About Competitive Districts
Mike Siegel is far from a favorite in November if he wins this runoff. Mike McCaul weathered the storm in a wave year in 2018 and even if it’s another big cycle for Democrats, it doesn’t mean Siegel is a sure thing. That shouldn’t deter donors or outside endorsers; Mike Siegel is one of our best chances to show the Democratic establishment that they don’t just need to worry about progressives knocking off incumbents. In fact, they need to worry about progressives winning swing seats because our message is popular. That’s why, if Siegel wins this runoff, we need to throw all our support behind him to beat Mike McCaul in November. If we fail to tally many other big wins during the primary season, Mike Siegel will give us something to fight for in November.
PredictIt, as of the release of this article, has Siegel/Gandhi at about 90/10. That sounds a bit optimistic to me. I’d put odds closer to 75/25, which I think reflects the uncertainty of the Hutcheson voters who I worry might support Gandhi. Siegel should be the favorite, but without polling, it is hard to know what those odds should be.
Where to Watch
Just follow Travis County (Austin). That’s where nearly all the votes will come from and if Siegel has an early lead there, I doubt he will relinquish it. Don’t panic if some of the rural counties break for Gandhi; it’s likely Siegel can make it up in Austin.
There are several other major races with progressives that will take place Tuesday: Candace Valenzuela in Texas 24, Donna Imam in Texas 31, Royce West in the Texas Senate race, and Betsy Sweet in the Maine Senate race. Polls have been good for Valenzuela and Imam has the backing of local officials and unions. I feel confident that they will win. West and Sweet are much harder, but within reach. Mike Siegel should advance in this runoff and if he doesn’t it is a red flag for the progressive movement. But if Siegel pulls through tonight, click this link and make sure he takes down Mike McCaul. A win like that could change politics in Texas and add one more member to the new wave of progressives in the U.S. House.