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Two Democrats Compete For Chance To Unseat Longtime Incumbent In Texas' 31st Congressional District

Donna Imam (left) and Christine Mann (right) are competing for the Democratic nomination in Texas' 31st Congressional District election.
Courtesy of the candidates
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Donna Imam (left) and Christine Mann (right) are competing for the Democratic nomination in Texas' 31st Congressional District election.

In 2018, MJ Hegar challenged Republican incumbent John Carter, who has represented Texas’ 31st Congressional District since 2003. Although she lost, the narrow race opened the door to future Democrats competing for Carter’s seat. Two candidates, Christine Mann and Donna Imam, say their personal careers have prepared them to unseat the longtime U.S. Representative, but only one will make it beyond the runoff ballot. 

The 31st District spans from Round Rock to Temple and from Killeen to Taylor, encompassing all of Williamson County and most of its northern neighbor, Bell County. 

Before Hegar went head-to-head with Carter, she had to first beat Mann in the primary. Though the election ended in a loss for Mann, she is back with another bid. 

“It just became very apparent that working from the outside was not changing the minds of the people on the inside,” Mann said. “And so in my mind, the decision is to change the people on the inside. And that's what I'm choosing to do.” 

Mann, a family practice physician in Cedar Park, has served on the board of directors of the American Heart Association for Williamson County. Her years of experience inspired her to enter the race. She wants to make changes to what she called a “massive mishandling” of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We do not have the level of shutdown and mask mandates that would be necessary to really get a handle on this virus,” Mann said. “And it is a shame that so many people have died because of that.” 

She’s leaned on her years in the medical field as a distinction from her opponent, Imam. But Imam, who came within 4% of Mann in the March primary, is also relying on her background to guide her to a win. She is an engineer and tech entrepreneur who has worked in the nonprofit sector.

“Nonprofits really cannot solve the widespread systemic problems in our country,” Imam said. “And unless working people like me get involved in our democracy, we will not be able to bring the change and the solutions that we need to bring, and as an engineer, I’m uniquely trained to solve large-scale problems.”

Imam’s health care plan, Healthcare for All, would increase health care resources and staff in the hopes of reducing medical costs and accelerating Medicare for All.

“We were one of the only, if not the only campaign in 2019, when we launched our campaign, that talked about scaling the health infrastructure," Imam said. "Scaling referred to more primary care physicians, more nurses, more facilities so that we can catch problems early on and not use [emergency rooms] as our first line of defense.”

To address another big topic for this year’s elections — racial justice — Imam turns to her Equal Justice for All plan, which demands the federal government decriminalize marijuana possession and require body cams, de-escalation training and liability insurance for police.

“Unlike other campaigns that are just reacting to the protests, we were aware and on top of our game in showing that we have constructive policy changes that need to happen,” Imam said. “Race must be a factor in our policy solutions.” 

Carter easily won the Republican primary in March. With early voting underway, it's unclear so far which of the two Democrats will face him in November. 

Got a tip? Email Allyson Ortegon at aortegon@kut.org. Follow her @allysonortegon

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