Democrat Gina Hinojosa will represent the majority of UT students in the upcoming legislative session after securing 84.39 percent of the vote in House District 49, where she faced Libertarian candidate Rick Perkins and no major party opposition for the heavily-Democratic seat.
Hinojosa, whose newly-won district encompasses West Campus and the areas around UT, will be sworn in as a freshman state legislator in January, where she will join other Democratic House members in the clear minority after Tuesday’s election.
“Just like it took the community to get me elected, it’s going to take all of us to make our voices heard at the Capitol for this district,” Hinojosa said. “I’m just feeling good that the district is so solid in its progressive values.”
Hinojosa, who watched the results of the presidential race trickle into a live MSNBC feed at a watch party downtown with members of the Travis County Democratic Party, told The Daily Texan she plans on focusing on public education, women’s health and state tuition at public universities as some of her legislative priorities next session.
“We’ve deferred investment for so long in this state on just real basic necessities and needs, that we are in a crisis situation in so many areas,” Hinojosa said.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is president of the state Senate, announced earlier this year that he would prioritize introducing legislation next session similar to that of North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, which forces individuals to use the bathroom that coincides with the gender listed on their birth certificate rather than the gender they identify as.
Hinojosa told The Daily Texan she would oppose any effort to pass such legislation and she would be actively “engaged” in fighting against.
“I feel really confident in knowing Gina’s ability to stand with people who are coming under attack based on their race, sexual orientation and gender [identity], anything like that,” said UDems member Skyler Korgel, mechanical engineering senior. “She has the experience … and I know her office is looking forward to defending against these battles and standing with the rest of Texas Democrats.”
During the primary race, University Democrats splintered away from other Austin Democratic institutions, such as Central Austin Democrats, in endorsing Democrat Huey Rey Fischer, a former UDems president who ran as the district’s “progressive” choice. Fischer placed third on the ballot with 14 percent behind Hinojosa and UT law professor Heather Way, who earned 57 and 19 percent, respectively, according to tracked primary results from The Texas Tribune.
“Moving forward, as our Democratic representative, I think UDems will be behind her more after the primary struggle,” Korgel, who said he broke off from his fellow members and voted for Hinojosa, said. “I’m confident that … as the session goes on, where we’ll all need to be together as Democrats, that UDems and Gina will mend whatever weird break they had.”
Hinojosa will replace Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, who unexpectedly announced he planned to retire from the seat he had held for 25 years last December. Naishtat’s decision sparked a scramble for the seat among those in the Austin Democratic establishment, resulting in a seven-candidate field of Democrats and no Republicans, who all but conceded the race for one of the state’s most Democratic-leaning legislative seats.
Naishtat, who was first elected to the state Legislature in 1990, said his desire to pass the torch on to the next generation of Democrats was one of the major reasons he decided against running for re-election to his seat.
“It was a difficult decision for me to make, because I’ve been doing this for over 25 years and loved it, but it was time,” Naishtat said. “As I said when I announced I wouldn’t seek re-election, District 49 is going to be in really good hands.”
The race was called with 78 percent of precincts reporting at press time.