In a landslide, Greg Casar on Tuesday secured the Democratic nomination for Congressional District 35, a heavily Democratic voting district, in what he called a victory for the progressive movement in Texas.
Casar commanded an insurmountable lead with more than 61% of the vote, according to unofficial results. The remainder of votes were split among his three opponents.
The district extends from Austin to San Antonio’s northeast suburbs and its urban core.
“From Austin to San Antonio, and up and down I-35, we built this movement,” Casar, a former Austin City Council member, said to a cheering crowd of hundreds at his election party held in the outdoor lot of a hip bar in downtown Austin.
“Tonight $15 an hour won. Medicare For All won. The [Protecting the Right to Organize] Act won. Reproductive rights won,” Casar said, listing a medley of the progressive causes that animated his campaign, which recently saw progressive lightning rod Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) stump for him in San Antonio.
Casar pointed to his political career, beginning with his work in the Worker’s Defense Project, a legal organization in Austin. He thanked supporters, organizers and local officials in Austin and San Antonio, including local City Council members Teri Castillo (D5), Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) and Ana Sandoval (D7).
Castillo, who was also at the watch party, toasted Casar as a “champion for working families” in the congressional district, which includes the eastern part of San Antonio.
Casar’s opponents included Eddie Rodriguez, a state representative who also ran as a progressive. Rodriguez’s campaign sought to connect Casar to the visibility of homelessness in Austin, after Casar pushed to repeal Austin’s ban on outdoor camping. Rodriguez ended up with a little more than 15% of the vote.
Former City Council member Rebecca Viagran (D3) banked on support from San Antonio voters, though they ultimately went in large part to Casar, according to his campaign. She drew 15.5% of the vote.
The watch party in Austin attracted no shortage of twenty-somethings, but it also brought together many generations. Among the attendees was Yolanda Delgado, a union member of the Communication Workers of America, who said she was over 65 years old. Delgado said she has long supported Casar because of what she said was his work advocating for poorer neighborhoods and because of his close work with the Democratic Socialists of America.
The socialist organization, whose Austin chapter once spearheaded Casar’s charge for paid sick leave in the Texas capital and once put its full organizing weight behind his campaign, pulled its support last month. The development came after a letter was reported detailing Casar’s policy positions on Israel.
The Republican primary will go to a runoff, as 10 candidates split the vote. Dan McQueen, who in 2016 was elected as Corpus Christi’s mayor but resigned after 37 days, led with 21%, followed by Michael Rodriguez with 14%.
In November, Casar is likely to win in the Democratic-leaning district, as is U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who ran unopposed in the primary for Congressional District 20. Castro will face Kyle Sinclair, who had no opposition in the Republican primary.
Other congressional primary races were less clear-cut.
Congressional District 28
The primary race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and challenger Jessica Cisneros was too close to call early Wednesday, with Cuellar having a slight edge in the Democratic primary as votes continued to be counted. It was unknown whether he would be able to win the race outright or land in a runoff. The race has been among the most closely watched in Texas following an FBI raid of Cuellar’s home in January in connection with an unspecified investigation. Cuellar has maintained he will be cleared of wrongdoing.
In the Republican primary, seven candidates split the vote, but Cassie Garcia drew the most support with 23.3% of the vote, advancing to a May 24 runoff against Sandra Whitten, who got 18.2%.
Congressional District 21
Claudia Zapata advanced to a runoff with Ricardo Villarreal in the Democratic primary in the conservative-leaning district covering the northern part of San Antonio, as well as an expanse west of Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin encompassing much of the Hill Country.
Zapata got 47.3% percent of the vote to Villarreal’s 27.1% in a six-person field.
Zapata is an Austin community activist and former budget analyst for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. She’s campaigned as a progressive with a focus on immigration reform but also supports the Green New Deal.
Villarreal is a San Antonio-based physician and Army veteran who has combined support of Medicaid expansion with an emphasis on support for the 2nd Amendment.
In the Republican primary, incumbent U.S. Rep. Chip Roy secured an easy victory. With 69% of ballots reported, he won 84%.
Congressional District 23
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales easily beat back his challengers in the Republican primary. Gonzales boasted support from nearly 78% of voters.
In the Democratic primary, John Lira defeated Priscilla Golden, getting just over 56% of the vote.
The district covers much of western Texas, reaching all the way to the outskirts of El Paso, but it also covers the western suburbs of San Antonio.
Lira is a San Antonio-based policy analyst and former Marine who has strongly advocated for support for small businesses and infrastructure. Golden works for Sul Ross State University in Alpine, and during her campaign boasted strong ties to San Antonio and to El Paso.
In November 2020, Gonzales narrowly won over the Democratic candidate, Gina Ortiz Jones. Elections analysis site FiveThirtyEight reports that the district has become more heavily Republican-leaning under recent redistricting.