Encompassing Blanco and Hays counties, Texas House District 45 is a Republican-leaning district that fell into Democrat hands in the 2018 election after Beto O’Rourke’s campaign turned out large numbers of votes in Hays County, which contains San Marcos and Texas State University.
The result was the election of Erin Zweiner, a far-left Democrat who eschewed the traditional wisdom of moderating her political positions to keep the district she represents and has instead voted with the far-left wing of the Democrat Party. Zweiner earned a dismal score of 20 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index and has been rated as the fourth-most liberal member of the Texas House.
On July 14, Republican voters will decide which of two candidates is their best hope of taking back the district: Carrie Isaac or Bud Wymore.
Carrie Isaac of Dripping Springs is the wife of former State Rep. Jason Isaac, who declined to run for re-election in 2018 to mount what was an ultimately unsuccessful congressional campaign. Jason Isaac now works for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Carrie Issac has touted her work on her husband’s campaign as an asset in her own, telling Dripping Springs Century News that Republican voters should pick her because she is the candidate “best able to defeat Zwiener in the general election.”
“I have been politically active for ten years now—my opponents have not. I have over 450 donors. In the first filing period, I raised more money than both my primary opponents and Erin Zwiener combined. I was the only Republican candidate to have donations from both counties. I have endorsements from over two hundred elected and previously elected officials. More than a thousand people have told me that they will host a meet and greet, or donate, have a yard sign, or volunteer. I have better name recognition than Zwiener,” said Isaac.
“I have been knocking on doors and campaigning since 2009,” she continued. “When Jason first ran, nobody thought he would win, and we didn’t have many volunteers. We would leave the house at 7 or 8 a.m. and get home past midnight, and I was the one who managed all that. I was campaign treasurer, handled logistics, who to meet, and so on. And we did it. We defeated [then-incumbent Democrat] Patrick Rose. [Then-Hays County Republican Chairman] Bud Wymore did not help, at all. I am the only candidate in this race who has experience defeating a Democrat.”
With her deep knowledge of and relationships with voters in the district from working on her husband’s campaigns, Carrie Isaac is considered the favorite to win the election. Apart from being a wife to her husband, Jason, and mother to their two sons, Carrie Isaac is the executive director of an Austin-based nonprofit that helps disabled veterans secure employment, though that has come under significant media scrutiny over the past couple of months.
Endorsed by the NRA, Texas Homeschool Coalition, Texas Right to Life, and more than a dozen elected officials across Texas, Isaac received 49 percent of the vote on election night—only a few votes shy of a majority. Instead, she forced a runoff against second-place finisher Bud Wymore, who earned 38 percent of the vote.
The former chairman of the Hays County GOP, Wymore is an attorney by trade and has positioned himself as a more centrist Republican. Wymore touts the support of 2018 Republican candidate Ken Strange and many local officials in Hays County, as well as former executive director of the Republican Party of Texas Eric Opeila, and the Austin American-Statesman.
Wymore, however, maintains he is the Republican best suited to retake the seat from Democrat Erin Zweiner. In an interview with The Texan, Wymore said he had a “conservative message … resonating with Republican voters” and called Isaac a “ticking ethical time-bomb” due to her husband’s previous use of campaign dollars for an Austin apartment, the ongoing scrutiny of her nonprofit, and a lease on a home outside of the district.
Indeed, Wymore has an entire page on his website devoted to what he calls “the facts about Carrie Isaac,” which include links to media coverage of the issues he has raised. But Wymore has also been criticized for actions he’s taken, including lawsuits he filed against gun ranges.
Wymore has characterized those suits as standing up for property rights in a submission to the Hays Free Press, in which he wrote:
“In December 2013, I was hired to represent landowners in Creedmoor, (just outside of Buda) when their property was barraged with bullets from a newly opened outdoor gun range the day after Christmas. One bullet penetrated a window and was found embedded in a stack of files on a desk. Another pierced a metal building and finally landed in a file cabinet. My clients’ son threw himself on top of his young nephew to protect him from oncoming bullets. My clients prevailed as the range was found to be unsafe and operating in violation of a zoning ordinance.
“In the years that followed, I accepted two more cases similar in nature. In the second case in Lampasas County, the gun range agreed to make modifications and is still operating. The sport shooting community is better because of the changes. In the third case, we found in excess of 150 bullets on my client’s property, and a Republican Judge entered an order that found the range “presents a significant risk of harm to life and property.” In all three cases, I am proud of the work we did. Standing for life and private property rights is the right thing to do.”
Originally scheduled for May 26, the primary runoff elections have been delayed until July 14 due to the Chinese coronavirus. This crisis has also forced campaigns to think differently, as election season staples such as door-to-door block walking and in-person events have been largely out of the question.
Whichever candidate wins the Republican primary can expect an uphill battle to retake the seat from Democrat hands.