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Courtesy Texas House of Representatives
House District 50 mapThe House District 50 seat covers portions of Austin, Pflugerville, Manor, Elgin and Webberville in Travis County.
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Jade Chang Sheppard
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Four candidates have filed to run in the special election to fill the House District 50 seat vacated by former state Rep. Mark Strama, who left his post in July to head up Google Fiber in Austin.
The filing deadline for District 50, which spans portions of North Austin, Pflugerville, Manor, Elgin and Webberville in Travis County, was Sept. 4. Candidate and real estate agent Celia Israel said she is concerned about the match-up of three Democrats running against one Republican, Jollyville chiropractor Mike VanDeWalle.
“I don’t want to lose this seat for the party and progressive views,” she said. “… I would have liked to see one other Republican step up.”
Israel will be going up against Jade Chang Sheppard and Rico Reyes in her party. Israel is a longtime community leader and political activist who previously served on the boards for nonprofit groups Alliance for Public Transportation, Capital Area Food Bank of Texas and GENaustin, the Girls Empowerment Network. She is focusing her campaign on issues related to mass transit, the cost of higher education, women’s health, affordable housing and land use.
Sheppard is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin who also has been involved in politics, community service and volunteer work. She has worked with or served on the boards of Planned Parenthood, Austin Children’s Shelter, Asian American Resource Center, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and Young President’s Association. Sheppard runs her own business, Gideon Construction, and will prioritize job creation, business environment and education on the campaign trail.
Reyes is an attorney, an officer in the United States Marine Corps Reserves and a former assistant district attorney. He graduated from Harvard University and The University of Texas Business and Law Schools. Reyes will focus on the pillars of the American Dream in his campaign, specifically about health care, education and middle-class jobs.
VanDeWalle owns VanDeWalle Chiropractic and has been a doctor and small businessman in the district for 30 years. He was a team doctor for Austin ISD sporting events and was selected as a treating doctor for the World’s Greatest Athlete Decathlon Club, which trained Olympic hopefuls for the 2004 Olympics. He will focus his campaign on keeping taxes low and government limited, opposing excessive regulation of small businesses, creating a business-friendly environment and improving education.
VanDeWalle said he has already been knocking on doors and letting constituents know about the election. He is confident about his odds in the race because this is his first foray into politics.
“It’s a district that’s pretty even,” he said. “There’s a big independent group, so my chances are very good.”
Early voting for the Nov. 5 election is Oct. 21–Nov. 1, and the last day to register to vote is Oct. 7. More information may be found at www.votetexas.gov.
Contact the candidates:
• Celia Israel, Democrat
• Rico Reyes, Democrat
• Jade Chang Sheppard, Democrat
• Mike VanDeWalle, Republican