Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VanDeWalle emerged as the leaders in a four person race in November. VanDeWalle leads the pack with about 39 percent of the vote. On election night, he said the win was driven by energy from Republicans who want a change after nine years of Democrat Mark Strama.
“Yes I think there’s been a pent up excitement waiting to happen," VanDeWalle told KUT. "And I think we’re seeing it now.”
But the concern for VanDeWalle’s campaign is that the November victory could be his ceiling—the remaining 61 percent of voters picked one of the three Democrats in the race. With Israel getting the majority of that support, the long-time Democratic activist and real estate agent knows a special election runoff brings its own set of problems for her.
“The big challenge for us, in a special election, you know of course we’re the only thing on the ballot, is to just kind of wake everybody out of that holiday slumber and say, 'Hey there’s a special-special election on Jan. 28 and we could really use your support,'” Israel says.
Israel will need the support of the voters who voted for her – and the ones who voted for someone else in the November special election – if she’s going to win this month. She says getting that support hasn’t been a problem.
“Once they know, yeah you really are qualified, thanks for knocking at my door. Tell me where am I voting and when? They just want the information. Just tell me where to vote,” she says.
Israel is campaigning on education funding, which she says is a top concern in House District 50. She says the voters she’s talked with don’t want another round of education cuts.
VanDeWalle says low taxes and low regulation are the keys to the district’s heart.
“I think we need to limit government and how they regulate things. I think there’s over regulation. We do need regulation," VanDeWalle said. "But not to the extent we’re going.”
Early voting for the HD 50 runoff election begins Tuesday, Jan. 21. Election day is Jan. 28.