Retiree association director Elaina Fowler and real estate business owner Vikki Goodwin are headed to the May 22 Democratic runoff for a chance to flip the only Republican-held Texas House seat in Travis County.
House District 47, which encompasses western Travis County, including parts of West Austin, Bee Cave, Lakeway and Lago Vista, is represented by Paul Workman of Austin, who won the Republican nomination in March. The district is among 15 Republican-held seats statewide vulnerable to a Democratic pickup, according to Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University.
President Donald Trump won 46.7 percent of the vote in the district; Hillary Clinton won 46.6 percent. About 16,000 people voted in the March Democratic primary in the district, compared with about 15,000 in the Republican primary.
“The district makeup is not as conservative as it used to be, and the conservatives who are there are upset over the issues … including traffic and being ignored when it comes to quality of life issues,” Fowler said.
Fowler, a former chief of staff for state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, has earned endorsements from Education Austin, the Texas AFL-CIO, Liberal Austin Democrats, University Democrats and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Goodwin’s notable endorsements include South Austin Democrats and Central Austin Democrats, and she has raised more than $50,000, four times what Fowler has raised.
Goodwin received 33.6 percent of the votes in March, and Fowler received 29.1 percent.
Early voting will begin next Monday and run through May 18.
If elected, Fowler said she would remove “loopholes” that she said commercial property owners are using to get smaller property tax bills. She also wants counties to have greater commercial zoning authority to ensure that the environment is protected. In addition, she said she wants officials from all counties in Central Texas to contribute to a plan to protect the region’s bodies of water so that “clean, quality water” is available to everyone.
She opposes private school vouchers, charter school growth and the new way the state will rate schools — schools will be assigned A through F grades each year — because she said such policies hurt traditional public schools. She also wants to take a closer look at school districts that have become districts of innovation, which don’t have to follow as many state regulations as districts lacking such a designation.
If elected, Goodwin said she would push for legislation to set the state’s share of public school funding at 50 percent; because of outdated funding formulas, the state’s share has declined over the years to 38 percent. She proposes diverting money that has been used to secure the border to pay for education. She also wants to eliminate the A-F school rating system and explore alternatives to the state standardized test, which she says is too punitive.
Goodwin also wants to strengthen the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and alleviate traffic, including exploring whether lanes need to be redrawn on major roads and encouraging large companies to collaborate on ride-share efforts for their employees.
Goodwin said she is willing to work with Republicans on nonpartisan issues. She has received criticism from Democrats after she endorsed Republican Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty in 2012 because he had promised to support the construction of Texas 45 Southwest. Goodwin was removed as a Democratic precinct chairwoman for it.
“We have to have both Democrats and Republicans agree on any number of issues. If I get into the Legislature, I feel like I can talk to people without prejudging them,” she said.
When asked about Goodwin’s party loyalty, Fowler said Democrats who are outnumbered in the House need to band together and she’s not sure Goodwin will do that.
“We are the minority, but we get a majority of things done, and the reason that we do that is we stick together,” Fowler said.
ABOUT THE CANDIDATES
Elaina Fowler, 42, is executive director of the Chapter 12 Texas retirees of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She has a bachelor’s degree in international business from Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga. She previously worked as a staff member for former Austin City Council Member Sheryl Cole and chief of staff for state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto.
Civic participation: Fowler said she serves on the boards of the Girl Empowerment Network and the National Women’s Political Caucus of Texas and as a project chairwoman with the Junior League of Austin. She also is a member of the Austin African American Resource Advisory Commission representing Austin City Council District 10.
Vikki Goodwin, 50, is the owner of Goodwin and Goodwin Real Estate. She has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Texas.
Civic participation: Goodwin said she is a grants review member of Impact Austin and a member of the Rotary Club of Austin-Southwest, the Metropolitan Breakfast Club and the South Austin Neighborhood Association. She serves on the Austin Board of Realtors.
Rep. Paul Workman, 66, is serving his fourth term in the Texas House. Workman earned a bachelor’s degree in building construction from Texas A&M University. He works as a consultant for construction litigation support.
Voting record: Workman supported the law enacted last year that requires local officials to work with federal immigration enforcement.