A familiar challenger and a political newcomer are battling for the Democratic nomination in a race to see who will face Republican U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul in the vast 10th Congressional District that stretches from Austin almost to Houston.
Tawana Walter-Cadien, a three-time challenger to McCaul and registered nurse educator in Cypress, and Mike Siegel, an Austin assistant city attorney, are vying for the Democratic nomination in the May 22 runoff. They have similar views on policy, but Walter-Cadien said her work in Texas politics should give her the edge in the race. Siegel said he has a campaign organized to help unite supporters throughout the nine-county district.
In the March primary, Siegel won 40 percent of the vote to Walter-Cadien’s second-place finish with 18 percent in a seven-person race. Walter-Cadien has been endorsed by two of the March candidates, Tami Walker and Madeline Eden, who won 16 percent of support and 14 percent respectively. Siegel enjoys support from major labor unions, Austin Democratic clubs and Austin City Council Members Greg Casar, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Delia Garza and Leslie Pool.
Walter-Cadien said she would see uninsured people diagnosed late with cancer, so seeing McCaul’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act angered her.
“When I saw that Mr. McCaul was just blatantly disrespecting the citizens and not hearing their pleas, not answering their calls, not answering their emails saying ‘please help us, please don’t vote against health care,’ and he voted against it … I put my name in the hat, and I ran against him,” she said.
Walter-Cadien said she thought Texas’ congressional delegation would recognize that there was a health care crisis in the state and they would band together to find solutions. Instead, she said, it became another partisan issue. In 2012, she ran her first campaign against McCaul, who was first elected to represent the district in 2004.
McCaul won the race with 61 percent of the vote to Walter-Cadien’s 36 percent and Libertarian candidate Richard Priest’s 3 percent. She took another beating in 2014, when McCaul won 62 percent of the vote, Walter-Cadien won 34 percent of support and Libertarian candidate Bill Kelsey got 4 percent. In the 2016 race, McCaul won the race with 57 percent of the vote, Walter-Cadien’s support bumped to 38 percent and Kelsey also saw improvement, winning 4 percent of the vote.
Siegel, a former schoolteacher with Teach for America and former civil rights attorney, said Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans made him consider getting into politics.
“That anti-Mexican fervor got me to pay attention, and then what convinced me to actually run was the vote to cut the Affordable Care Act, which was supported by McCaul,” he said. “And to me, the idea that an incredibly wealthy man like McCaul would vote to cut health care from thousands and thousands of Texans without having any plan to replace it was obscene. I would say it’s a human rights violation.”
Siegel said he saw the impact of the Affordable Care Act firsthand as he helped a friend who had been walking around for months with a broken foot. Siegel helped him with the paperwork to apply for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
“It was only after he qualified for the ACA that he was able to obtain care, and he was able to have insurance so that he could have health care year-round with the subsidy at an affordable rate,” Siegel said.
Walter-Cadien said she’s running on a “domestic security” platform, and Americans aren’t secure.
“They are expressing anxiety. They are expressing fear,” she said. “Whether it’s fear that someone is going to go in and shoot their children, or if it’s fear from the child themself — ‘I wonder if I can run fast enough if someone comes my school with a gun.’ It is fear of not having enough money for health care costs. It is the fear of not having a job.”
Siegel has expressed similar concerns. His platform includes supporting a path to legal status for people in the country illegally, instituting a “living wage,” ending the War on Drugs and increasing salaries for teachers. Siegel said people in the district have said they’re concerned about hospitals in rural areas not being able to serve all patients’ needs, the impact of the federal income tax cuts enacted earlier this year, rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey and investing in infrastructure.
“The Republican Party has not been able to advance any infrastructure bill, and I think that’s another important thing that Democrats can offer,” he said.
Walter-Cadien said she has a track record of working in the state and on Democratic causes.
“I have registered literally thousands of voters. I have done voter education. I have been a precinct chair, a voter registrar, a voter registration coordinator,” she said. “I did not wait to jump in this race when they said, ‘Oh, now look, it’s winnable.’ I was in the race from the time I realized my congressman was voting against me and the rest of the citizens.”
Siegel, who moved to the state in 2013, said he got to Texas as fast as he could.
“I’m running for Congress of the United States, and so I’m looking to represent the needs of the entire country,” he said. “My experience as a teacher — and I’ve taught in California, New York and in Texas, and my experience as a civil rights lawyer in California and Texas informs my understanding of what the needs of the people are. … I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors myself, my campaign has knocked on thousands of doors, where we know what the people need.”
Siegel said he and his wife are committed to Texas.
“I have to raise my kids here,” he said. “And so I have a vested interest in making sure we have a representative government that takes care of the majority of people here, unlike the current leadership.”
ABOUT THE CANDIDATES
• Tawana Walter-Cadien, 45, is a registered nurse educator and public administrator in Cypress. She has been active in the Texas Democratic Party, particularly in voter registration, and challenged U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul in three general elections. She grew up in Jefferson County, is married and has two children.
• Mike Siegel, 40, is an assistant city attorney in Austin. He is a former schoolteacher and civil rights attorney. In his current role, he led Austin’s legal fight against the state’s anti-sanctuary cities law. Siegel is married and has two children.