In the first contested election of 2014 Democrats are off to a strong start. Yesterday Democrat Celia Israel defeated Republican Mike VanDeWalle in a special election run off for House District 50, formerly occupied by Mark Strama, who retired his House seat to head up Google Fiber in Austin.
Last November, Celia Israel faced VanDeWalle and two other democratic candidates in the special election. VanDeWalle got the highest overall percentage of votes back in November, with 39 percent of the vote, with Celia not far behind with 32 percent, but overall 61 percent of voters cast a ballot for a Democrat in the first special election. Celia and her field team were able to stay close to that number winning yesterday with 59.42 percent of the vote, despite the weather conditions and polling locations closing (with 10.7 percent overall turnout). In 2008 Obama took the district at 60.27 percent and in 2012 he took the district with 57.75 percent.
This single house district race pulled in numbers at 2008 levels of enthusiasm. That's big. And in 2014 things only promise to get bigger.
Click below the jump to read more about how this race is a indictor of things to come in Texas.This victory is important, not just because it ensures a democratic stronghold for the Travis County delegation in the Texas Legislature, but it is also one of the first victories for Battleground Texas. Battleground's efforts along with the work of the new and improved Texas Democratic Party, all helped make final pushes for the Celia Israel campaign.
While Battleground and the TDP were instrumental in helping with the win last night, Celia Israel won the special election in November because of the strong field efforts of her campaign. This was a great building block to start with, and Battleground Texas applauded Celia's victory calling it “a sign of things to come.”
According to Battleground Texas, their volunteers made some 29,136 voter contact attempts for Israel and, “As the first head-to-head election of the 2014 campaign cycle, Battleground Texas and its network of grassroots volunteers worked with the Israel campaign to identify and turnout voters.”
“In less than a year, Battleground Texas has built a network of more than 10,000 volunteers and held hundreds of events across the state to register voters and mobilize Texans who are already registered but haven't been engaged in the democratic process. The grassroots organization will be working with key campaigns around the state to ensure that Texas' leadership reflects the diversity and values that make Texas great.”
With Celia's victory also comes a giant historical landmark for Texas. Now for the first time ever, two openly LGBT members will serve in the Texas Legislature (Celia Israel and Mary Gonzalez). The voters of HD 50 made history last night, and hopefully the voters of Texas will continue to make history in 2014.