With name recognition and a push to mobilize African-American and white women working to her advantage, Sheryl Cole narrowly defeated immigration attorney Jose “Chito” Vela III in the Texas House District 46 Democratic runoff Tuesday.
Cole, a former Austin City Council member, earned 4,967 votes, or 50.9 percent, on Tuesday, 173 more votes than Vela in the staunchly Democratic district. Cole will face Republican nominee Gabriel Nila, a public school teacher, in the November general election.
The slim margin came as no surprise to multiple political scientists and consultants contacted by the American-Statesman. The district, which encompasses parts of East Austin and Pflugerville and most of Manor, has historically been represented by a black legislator. Hispanics now constitute nearly half of district residents, by far the largest ethnic or racial group in the district.
With both candidates committed to fighting for similar progressive issues, winning the primary came down to appealing to certain voters. Cole, who is African-American, appealed to black voters, particularly in the Manor and Pflugerville areas, as well as white female voters, said David Butts, political consultant for Cole during the primary.
“As best we could, we mobilized the African-American community and got as many people as possible to be aware of the fact that they stood to have no representation in the Travis County delegation,” Butts said. “Secondly, we had to go to Anglo women because women were the majority of the vote in all three categories: Hispanic, black and Anglo.”
In an interview with the Statesman Tuesday night, Cole attributed her win to the high turnout of black voters and said her support of reproductive rights resonated with voters.
Vela won nearly a dozen precincts in the southwestern portion of the district, where he lives, which also saw the highest turnout. While the overall district turnout was 10 percent, turnout in the two precincts that cover Cherrywood and Mueller was as high as 22 percent.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome Cole’s votes in the eastern and northern areas of the district.
“Sheryl Cole had the name recognition from being a former City Council member. Chito Vela did not have the same level of political experience,” said Brian Smith, a St. Edwards University political scientist.
Cole and Vela defeated state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, in March.
Texas House District 47
Real estate business owner Vikki Goodwin defeated retiree association leader Elaina Fowler in the Democratic runoff in Texas House District 47, which covers most of western Travis County.
Goodwin, who won 58 percent of the vote, will face state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, in November.
If elected, Goodwin said she would increase the state’s share of public school funding and proposes diverting money used to secure the border to pay for it.
Texas House District 45
Writer Erin Zwiener bested Texas State University professor Rebecca Bell-Metereau by a slim margin in the Texas House District 45 Democratic runoff.
Zwiener, who won 51.4 percent of the vote, will face Republican nominee Ken Strange, who serves on the Wimberley school board, in the November election. The district covers Hays and Blanco counties.
Zwiener said she would work to repeal the state’s voter identification law and give the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District authority to tax and levy fees like other groundwater conservation districts in Central Texas.