Choate’s 2020 Election Guide, Congress Edition

The other day, I discussed the options for President, and unsurprisingly recommended Joe Biden. And that was before President Trump’s PR stunt springing himself from Walter Reed! This post is all about the choices for our voices in the United States Congress.

Again, if you are in Harris County, you can get a sample ballot that will show you who you get to vote for in your precinct by going to

United States Senate

Next on the ballot after President and Vice-President are the choices for United States Senators. Your choices are John Cornyn as the Republican nominee; Mary “MJ” Hegar as the Democratic nominee; Kerry Douglas McKennon as the Libertarian nominee; and David B. Collins as the Green party nominee.  You can also write someone in.

Democratic Candidate for Senator, MJ Hegar

Much like my recommendation for President, it should come as no surprise at this point that I recommend voting for MJ Hegar as Senator. John Cornyn is obnoxious—has been since he was the Attorney General of Texas—and Hegar’s vision for Texas is more in line with where Texas is headed. For Cornyn being the second-most powerful Republican in the Senate, there is little for Texas to show for it.

Hegar wasn’t born in Texas, but like a lot of people our age living here, she got brought down here as a kid and has been here more than long enough to know what the changing demographics mean for the future of our state. Growing up in Cedar Park and Leander, attending the University of Texas at the same time I did, and now living in Round Rock, she’s seen a ton of change come over Central Texas.

Hegar is well-known for her run for the House of Representative a couple of years ago, her scrappiness, and her tattoos which cover scars from her injuries sustained as a medevac pilot in Afghanistan. After her injuries, Hegar sued the DOD over the Combat Exclusion Policy, but ultimately lost the case. The suit, nonetheless, probably led to the scrapping of the policy in 2013. She has received endorsements from among others, President Obama, and from Everytown and Moms Demand Action, which, again, doesn’t mean she’s taking your guns. It just means we have to stop slaughtering each other with firearms.

Hegar is a moderate, but still supports shoring up the ACA and making it possible for the entire public to be able to buy into Medicare. Sensibly seeing that it’s time to stop dancing around relying on the rickety SCOTUS jurisprudence surrounding Roe v. Wade, she supports codifying abortion rights in the U.S. Code, a position that Joe Biden echoed just last night in his Town Hall appearance. Yes, that’s a position that risks having SCOTUS declare that Congress cannot mandate States to allow abortions, but it has to start somewhere if SCOTUS is going to overturn Roe. Her platform is on her website, and it’s a generally, mildly, progressive platform.

Hegar has raised a ton of money, but, for whatever reason, she has not received a fraction of the attention that Beto received in his campaign against Ted Cruz. Some of that is that Ted Cruz is so much more despised than Cornyn. Some of that is that Beto had a very good grasp of self-promotion and benefitted from his quirkiness. At the same time, Hegar hasn’t been criss-crossing the state, and has largely been absent from the conversation all year. The lack of juice behind her candidacy suggests it won’t be easy to dislodge Cornyn, though his weirdly conciliatory language in constituent letters in the last few weeks suggests the race might be closer than expected. Probably not close enough to get it done, but if enough people get out and vote it could be interesting.

Cornyn is just a troll who appears to have no sway with the President or even Mitch McConnell. Yes, he’s been instrumental in getting disastrous judges on the federal bench, but that’s honestly about it. He has led to no meaningful immigration reform even though his State has some of the highest levels of immigration in the country (legal or undocumented). He’s also been fascinatingly tone-deaf about COVID-19. In March, as Democrats were demanding stimulus packages and funding for supplies, Cornyn tweeted this:

Of course it took nearly two more weeks to get a stimulus package done, and the Senate has done nothing since, despite Democrats in the House passing multiple bills, including, recently a $2.2 trillion package. Trump has given wildly inconsistent signals the past couple of days, saying negotiations are off, but then begging for money, only to have his Chief of Staff reiterate that negotiations are off.

Cornyn also has gotten himself into an interesting position over the past couple of days. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, Cornyn stated that Trump his guard down about COVID, and that we aren’t through COVID by any stretch. He likely felt comfortable saying that because Trump, contracting COVID in the past week, seemingly acted like he was going to be more conscientious about the virus. However, that hasn’t materialized, and Trump is minimizing it even more than he had previously. That puts Cornyn in a spot where he is trying to pander to moderates, but now faces Republican voters who will think he doesn’t support Trump. Not that rank hypocrisy has deterred him before, it will be very difficult now to do a 180 and align himself with the GOP.

Where’s Cornyn’s voice now? Basically trying to find arguments for “living with the virus,” pretending that criticisms of Amy Coney Barrett are anti-religious in nature, pumping the bogus Russian anti-Clinton propaganda already rejected by the Senate, and saying that it’s fine that stimulus is stalled. In short, he’s being the troll he’s always been.

Like Joe Biden, MJ Hegar is not a charismatic juggernaut in the way Beto was. Her scrappiness, however, would serve Texas well, and that is why I recommend her.

House of Representative

Texas 8

My precinct puts me in House District 8, meaning I get to choose between Kevin Brady, the Republican contender; Elizabeth Hernandez, the Democratic contender; and Chris Duncan, the Libertarian contender.

Democratic Candidate for Texas 8, Elizabeth Hernandez

Kevin Brady is odious, and has been nothing but contemptuous in response to very reasonable emails written to him. His staff is very pleasant when I’ve had occasion to call, but that’s about the best thing I can say about him. He opposes extending unemployment benefits, constantly kowtows to Trump, and doesn’t support criminal justice reforms or marijuana legalization. He’s also an astonishing hypocrite, complaining about tax breaks that might benefit Democrats while happily passing tax cuts that benefit Republicans.

That being said, he’s virtually invincible. In 2018, in a Blue Wave year, he won reelection with 73.4% of the vote. His main challenger this time around, Elizabeth Hernandez, seems to be an perfectly thoughtful and nice person (her favorite book is the Hunger Games series, aspires to be as brave as June from Handmaid’s, and her favorite song is American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life.”) She supports funding improvements to public education, expanding access to Medicare, and protecting Social Security. She wants to strengthen the EEOC and the EPA to protect civil rights and the environment. An Accountant by trade, she wants to balance the budget and find ways to accomplish vaguely progressive goals while also trimming the federal deficit.

I have no qualms with her goals, and have no problem voting for her. Unless there are about 200,000 surprise Biden voters in the Woodlands and Montgomery County areas, though, I’ll be stunned if Brady doesn’t get reelected.

Other House Races in the Houston Area

Texas 2

Democratic Candidate for Texas 2, Sima Ladjevarian

House District 2 is ridiculously gerrymandered, and the race has the chance to be interesting.

Very Rationally Shaped Congressional District

Incumbent Dan Crenshaw, Republican, is facing off against Sima Ladjevarian, the Democratic candidate, and Elliott Scheirman, the Libertarian candidate.

Ladjevarian is an immigrant from Iran, and was Beto’s former Senior Advisor and Finance Chair. Earning her JD from UC-Hastings, she’s been a licensed attorney in Texas since 1990. She is more than happy to go after Dan Crenshaw who made a name for himself after acting aggrieved over a silly SNL spot. Crenshaw’s trademark eyepatch, Russell Crowe-light looks, and mocking of COVID has made Crenshaw a GOP up-and-comer.

As a breast cancer survivor, Ladjevarian’s platform puts health care at the front and center, where she follows Joe Biden’s lead: strengthen the ACA, but open Medicare to any Texan who wants to buy into it. Her green credentials could use some burnishing—she is definitely concerned about flooding given what happened in Harvey, but she’s not going out on any limbs to undercut Houston’s oil and gas industries. She also wants to make sure that teachers are paid well, but she’s not looking to make college free, though she does support the public service loan forgiveness programs that Trump has gutted. She supports gender and sexuality equality, along with common-sense gun reform. In short, she’s a standard moderate Democrat, but it’s notable that positions such as sexual equality are considered ho-hum mainstream these days.

Crenshaw is favored to win, but little whispers have suggested that overwhelming turnout could make this race interesting. If you live in House District 2 (which you might! given how it’s shaped) I recommend getting rid of the science-denying Dan Crenshaw and voting for Sima.

Texas 10

Texas-10 is turning out to be a surprisingly tight race between Michael McCaul, the Republican incumbent, and Mike Siegel, his Democratic opponent. 

Democratic Candidate for Texas 10, Mike Siegel

House District 10 is a great big blob of a district that spreads out between Houston and Austin.  There is little to suggest that the constituents of Houston and Austin have the same interests as the constituents of Brenham, Giddings, and LaGrange, but that’s gerrymandering for you.

Texas 10

Only a couple of points separate Mike Siegel and Michael McCaul as of the end of September, and their matchup is a reprise of 2018, when McCaul won reelection 51.1% to 46.8%. Mike Siegel is a civil rights attorney and former public school teacher.  He supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, ending Qualified Immunity for police officers, and College For All.  His platform is quite a bit more progressive than other Democratic candidates in the area. That he’s within a couple of points of Michael McCaul is a very strong indicator that these policies actually have broad support and progressives shouldn’t shy away from advocating for them.  If I could, I would definitely vote for Siegel over McCaul, and if you’re in Texas House District 10, I have no problem recommending him.

Texas 7

Democratic Incumbent in Texas 7, Lizzie Fletcher

In 2018, Lizzie Fletcher stunned everyone when she defeated John Culberson, the loathsome Republican who made it impossible to put a train down I-10 West. Now she is the incumbent, defending her seat from Wesley Hunt, the Republican challenger.

Fletcher is a determined moderate Democrat. Voting for Trump’s impeachment wasn’t a foregone conclusion with her, and she has been consistent in paying attention to her more conservative constituents. That her district comprises old-school upper middle class neighborhoods like West U, Memorial, Fleetwood, Barkers Landing, and Copperfield, that’s no surprise. Recently garnering an endorsement from the mayor of West U, the mayor of Hillshire Village, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fletcher is trying to stave off Hunt whose arguments are of the predictable she’s-a-radical-socialist tripe.

Her stance on racial and sexual equality is broadly in line with progressive policies, she supports DACA, and she is pro-choice. Unfortunately, her health care goals don’t seem to include a public option to buy into Medicare, and she doesn’t seem to buy into the Green New Deal.

Hunt is against DACA, misrepresents Democratic tax proposals, is against the Green New Deal, has no real health care policy, and is anti-abortion. Apart from being an Army veteran, he’s a standard GOP candidate.

Lizzie Fletcher is not as progressive as I would want my representative to be, but as I have said in many other contexts, I’d rather have a person who generally looks left than a person who wants to punish people.

My next post will be about the down-ballot races that are just as important as the marquee names at the top of the ballots.