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The 10th Congressional District Runoff Is About 'Electability' Versus Progressive Politics

Pritesh Gandhi and Mike Siegel, candidates for the Democratic nomination in Texas' 10th Congressional District.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Democrat Pritesh Gandhi (left) says he's more electable than Mike Siegel and can beat incumbent Michael McCaul. Siegel says the current crises the U.S. faces demand his more progressive solutions.

One of the congressional races being watched nationally is Texas’ 10th Congressional District. It’s being called a “battleground race," because Republican incumbent Michael McCaul – who has held the seat since 2004 – won it in 2018 by only 4 percentage points.   

The 10th District includes all of Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Waller and Washington counties, and parts of Travis, Lee, Bastrop and Harris counties.

McCaul's Democratic challenger in 2018, Mike Siegel, is giving it another shot. But he has competition for that opportunity. July’s runoff election will ask voters in the 10th District to decide between him and Pritesh Gandhi


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Both Siegel and Gandhi disagree with McCaul’s conservative policies, but what makes the two Democrats different from one another?

Siegel, a former public school teacher and Austin city attorney, calls himself much more progressive than Gandhi. 

“My policies really reflect what Democrats want to see in Washington, D.C., and that’s a huge distinguishing factor between me and Pritesh,” Siegel said. “I support a universal health care program like Medicare for All. I support a Green New Deal. Pritesh opposes both of those policies; he calls them 'fool's gold.'"

Former presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have both endorsed Siegel, since his platform matches their policy beliefs. He said these policies are what allowed him to come so close to beating McCaul in 2018. 

“We’re in the crisis of racism and racist policing. We’re also in a health pandemic with coronavirus, we’re in an economic crisis ... and then we’re frankly in a crisis of this presidency,” Siegel said. “How do we respond to these crises? To me, this is the moment for progressive solutions, for big-picture answers to meet the scale of the crises we are facing.” 

Gandhi, a physician who runs a nonprofit clinic in East Austin, said he voted for Siegel in 2018.

But, he said, if Siegel couldn't win then – when Democrat Beto O'Rourke beat Sen. Ted Cruz in the district – he's not electable. And that's why he decided to enter the race.

“I’m running because we need a nominee who will fight for what we believe in and can win,” Gandhi said. “Because you cannot make the change that you need to make at the legislative level if you don’t have a seat at the table.” 

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Gandhi said he believes his campaign can beat McCaul in the general election in November because his policies appeal to more people in the 10th District. 

“In the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a public health crisis, in the middle of a national reckoning on the original sin of slavery in our country, McCaul doesn’t want to run against a nonprofit physician who is the son of immigrants, a native Houstonian, and a person of color," he said. 

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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