Greg Casar wins Democratic primary for Austin and San Antonio area congressional seat

Greg Casar had a commanding lead over state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez about an hour after polls closed. (Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune, Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune)

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Former Austin City Council member Greg Casar, a controversial force in city politics, won the Democratic primary for the congressional seat covering parts of Austin and San Antonio.

Casar declared victory over Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and two other Democrats about an hour after polls closed. The 35th District, which stretches from East Austin along the eastern side of Interstate 35 and into San Antonio, is overwhelmingly Democratic. The primary contest likely determined the outcome of this race.

“Our campaign has built a movement of working people, from San Antonio to Austin, who are ready to fight because our futures depend on it. I’m incredibly honored to be the next Democratic nominee for TX-35,” Casar said. “Together, we’re taking our fight to the halls of Congress — to fight and deliver on passing Medicare for All, protecting reproductive rights, creating good jobs and fixing our power grid.”

“Progressive policies are popular,” he said. “And we’re going to pass them for Texas working families.”

Casar will be among the most progressive members of Congress ever to serve from Texas. During his tenure on the City Council, he was best known for supporting cuts to the police department and his fight against the encampment bans that had translated into homeless citizens living in tents in public parks and under Interstate 35 bridges.

He had the backing of prominent progressives like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but also the support of prominent locals like Austin Mayor Steve Adler and former state Sen. Wendy Davis.

Rodriguez, seen as his most competitive rival, warned Casar’s policies would set off GOP backlashes, like Gov. Greg Abbott’s successful initiatives to reverse the Austin City Council actions at the statewide level. But Rodriguez lagged behind in fundraising and enthusiasm. He did, however, have the support of Austin and San Antonio Democratic state legislators.

But those endorsements did little to move voters in his favor: At the time the race was called, Rodriguez was in a battle for second place against former San Antonio Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran.

This is an open-seat race to replace U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who relocated to the Austin-based 37th District after redistricting.

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Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chair, has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.