Voting Guide: Here Are the Seven Candidates Vying for State Rep. Naishtat's Seat

Feb 17, 2016

Seven Democrats are vying for a seat that will be vacated next year by retiring Democratic State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, who has represented Central Austin for more than two decades.

All seven candidates running for the HD 49 are progressive Democrats in Austin. For the most part there are not a lot of stark differences among them. In fact, six of the seven candidates have a legal background; almost all are running for public office for the first time; and most of the candidates have some experience working or advocating at the Texas Legislature.

Here is a basic breakdown of each candidate, a short audio clip to get to know them—and what sets them apart in this crowded race.

Aspen Dunaway

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Attorney

Background: Dunaway owns and operates his own private practice and is the precinct chair for Travis County Democrats.  

Legislative Priorities: cut property taxes, expand Medicaid, freeze tuition for state universities, raise the minimum wage, raise salaries for state employees, create a casino pilot project in Austin, create a tenant’s bill of rights, increase transportation funding, decriminalize marijuana and body cameras for police officers.  

What sets him apart: Dunaway is one of the few candidates that doesn’t have experience with the Legislature as an aide, staff member, lobbyist or advocate, which he says will make him an agent for change.

Huey Rey Fischer

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Recent graduate; legislative aide

Background: Has worked as an aide at the Texas Legislature for Democratic Reps. Eddie Rodriguez, Trey Martinez Fischer and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa.

Legislative Priorities: Tackling college tuition and the student debt crisis, environmental protection, increasing access to contraceptives, LGBT issues, criminal justice, expand Medicaid, increase minimum wage and gun control.

What sets him apart: Fischer is the youngest person running for the seat and he is also the only LGBT candidate.

Gina Hinojosa

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Attorney, Austin ISD school board member representing at-large District 8.

Background: Hinojosa has worked as an attorney and was the president of the Austin ISD school board and has represented the district at the Legislature.

Legislative Priorities: Education, allow public universities to opt out of campus carry, reproductive rights.

What sets her apart: Hinojosa has the most extensive background on education thanks to her experience as Austin ISD’s school board president.

Kenton Johnson

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Municipal Judge and attorney

Background: Municipal Prosecutor for more than two decades and was a Hillary Clinton delegate at 2008 TCDP Convention

Legislative Priorities: Medicaid and Gun control.

What sets him apart: Kenton has judicial experience, as well as experience as an attorney in Austin.

Blake Rocap 

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Attorney

Background: Rocap has both worked as staff at the Texas Legislature, as well as worked as on advocate. Most recently, Rocap was an attorney for NARAL, a group that defends abortion rights.

Legislative Priorities: Health care, reproductive rights, public pension issues, Paid Family and Medical Leave, Universal Pre-K, and property tax relief.

What sets him apart: Rocap has spent years working as a lobbyist on behalf of civil rights and reproductive rights groups at the Capitol and has also worked on the other side as a staffer on the Texas House Pensions Committee in the late aughts.

Matt Shrum

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Attorney

Background: Shrum has a background in criminal defense and was a prosecutor in the Travis County Attorney’s office. He was also a staffer at the Texas House during the 78th and 79th Legislative sessions.

Legislative Priorities: Adequately funding education, transportation and health care, public safety, criminal justice reform and tax reform.

Heather Way

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Professor, University of Texas Law School and is director of its Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic.

Background: Besides her work at UT, she was board chair of Foundation Communities, Vice chair of the city of Austin’s Downtown Commission and was on the city’s Families with Children Taskforce.

Legislative Priorities: Environmental Reform, education Reform, economic Fairness, gun control, affordable housing, women’s rights, health care, criminal justice reform.

What sets her apart: Way has been in involved in numerous community groups and has among the deepest connections to local advocacy groups in the city.