AUSTIN, Texas -- Identity politics are overtaking a race for a historically blue Texas House seat. Chito Vela and Sheryl Cole spoke with Spectrum News about why they want to represent House District 46.
When it comes to policy, Cole and Vela are nearly identical. Both refer to themselves as progressive or liberal Democrats who vow to fight for the people of East Austin, Manor and Pflugerville. Instead of focusing on policy, the two are highlighting their differences when it comes to experience.
“What is really key is that I am a CPA. That financial experience is key to what is going on in the Legislature,” Cole said.
“[I] also have the energy and the passion to really get in there and fight and be a champion and be an advocate,” Vela said.
The debate between the two has often turned to identity politics for the seat held by an African-American woman since 1975. Vela pointed out that the district is 47 percent Hispanic.
“The seat belongs to the people,” he said.
“It’s the only opportunity district for an African American. If an African American was not replaced in the seat, there will not be one in the seat, and I am told it would be virtually impossible to draw it again,” Cole said.
In fact, that would mean Austin representation at the Capitol would include no African-American members.
“Any type of person, I believe, could effectively represent that district,” Vela said. “I reject the idea that somehow because I am Mexican American that I shouldn’t run for this seat, that I don’t have a right to run for this seat.”
Cole said voters should consider her nine years in city government and decades of fighting for women’s right.
The primary election vote resulted in a 209-vote split between the candidates.