Steffy Felten
Mar 8, 2018 · 6 min read

MJ Hegar, a Strom Thurmond for the 21st Century

Texas 31 candidates switching party affiliation

Ideally, we would have a political system that made voting simple and quick. Billions of dollars are spent over months or years long campaigns that lead up to primaries, runoffs and general elections. Ranked Choice voting or Instant runoff voting would make everyone’s lives easier and put more power in the hands of the voter. With our current system, we will be heading back to the polls again very soon.

Coming out of the March primaries, we are faced with a runoff election in May for the Texas 31st congressional district candidate that will run as a Democrat. We will choose the Democrat who will eventually run against Republican incumbent (and Republican primary winner) John Carter. The winner of this seat will represent the people in the House of Representatives.

Why Vote in the Runoff?

The primary system allows voters to choose who will represent them from their own party (or the party that most closely represents them…I know, it’s tough). Both parties have come under fire in recent years for selecting or attempting to select the representatives for the people before voting has even begun. This sadly, is true for the TX-31 Democratic congressional race. There has been interference and establishment support for one of the candidates which is why it’s important that you know what each candidate stands for before you vote. Big money and big party organizations like DCCC don’t belong in our elections, whether that is behind the scenes with money, consultants, and assistance or public posting of opposition research.

You will hear party loyalists declare that voting for somebody who is a Democrat is all that matters. We all know that there are dozens of candidates that have changed their party affiliations and hell, even the parties themselves have completely swapped platforms. Issues matter. How that person will vote when they hold that office matters. When we look at voting records of our representatives, it is clear that party affiliation doesn’t have anything to do with how they vote in many cases. Long serving racist senator Strom Thurmond ran as an “Independent Democrat” during his first election before becoming a mainstream Democrat and later switching to the Republican party. We are seeing that again now as some Republicans attempt to distance themselves from Trump and the Tea Party wing of the Republican party.

Texas 31 Democratic Runoff Candidates

Two candidates will be asking for your vote in the runoff, here is where they stand on the issues:

Dr. Christine Mann has been a practicing physician in Cedar Park for 18 years. She is a lifelong Democrat and is best known in the community as a co-captain of Wilco Indivisible*. Dr Mann has received the support of the regular citizens in Williamson County. Because of her presence and efforts in the community, she was well known by many before entering the race. She is known for showing up when it counts and being unafraid to step to a challenge. An activist, fighting for her long held values, you will find her at protests, volunteering her time or speaking to community groups, government agencies and regular citizens. She passionately supports medicare for all, debt free higher education, ending chronic homelessness and confronting racial justice issues. She has detailed tangible policy solutions for problems facing constituents. Dr. Mann runs a grassroots campaign to represent Democrats and disaffected voters who feel the party has not provided proper representation.

Her opponent, MJ Hegar, is a Veteran of the Air Force and self-proclaimed “Independent Democrat”, “Progressive Republican” and “Reagan Republican”. She grew up in Round Rock and has returned to Wilco after completing her military obligations. During her time in the military she was highly decorated and participated in the successful legal challenge to the pentagon’s ban on women serving in combat roles in the military. After being approached as one of a group of Trump weary Republican Veterans in Texas to run as Democrats, Hegar switched parties. She was a lifelong Republican prior to her run. She last voted Republican in the 2016 Presidential primary and in the past supported the Republican incumbent John Carter monetarily. She backed Gary Johnson and hoped for him to be able to debate after Trumps win in the primary.

She is best known in the community for her book tours and finishing her campaign stump with “Being elected would be a great ending to my movie.” She has recently come under scrutiny for questionable spending of campaign donations while engaging in personal promotion. She has targeted Republicans as her voting base and wants to bring as many over to vote Democratic as possible, this she says, is why she is running on a moderate platform.

John Carter, the Republican opponent that one of these two runoff candidates will face in November has held the office for 15 years. While serving, Carter’s net worth has somehow skyrocketed to almost $2.3 million dollars. He has missed at least 452 role calls during his time in office and is rated one of the least productive members of the house of representatives.

Who Can Vote in the Run Off

Registered voters in Bell and Williamson County that did not vote in the Republican primary can vote in the Democratic Party runoff. You have until April 23, 2018 to register if you are not already. If you voted Democratic in the primary or DID NOT VOTE in the primary, you can vote in the run off.

Add It To Your Calendar

Early voting will run from May 14th through May 18th. Election Day is Tuesday, May 22nd

You already know they don’t want you to show up to vote. There will be one or two polling places. You will have to drive far and it will be out of your way. Make a plan now. Your vote matters.

General election early voting will be held October 22nd to November 2nd, 2018 and Election day is on Tuesday November 6th.

*Correction, Dr. Mann was incorrectly identified as founder of Wilco Indivisible. The article has been corrected to show her role, co-captain.

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