How congressional campaigns are dealing with COVID-19

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Even as the COVID-19 pandemic grips the nation and the world, congressional races go on. Democrats flip two House seats in Texas in the 2018 midterms, and are hoping to build on those gains in 2020. However, 2020 is shaping up to be a very different year than 2018. 

The outbreak has forced the campaigns to adapt to an unprecedented set of circumstances. Here’s a look at three Democrats running in competitive districts, and how they are campaigning in these unusual times. 

Gina Ortiz Jones

Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones is running in the 23rd District that stretches from San Antonio to just outside El Paso, a seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Will Hurd. Ortiz Jones previously faced off against Hurd in 2018, losing in a very close race that came down to roughly 1,000 votes. 

In order to continue her campaign while maintaining social distancing, Ortiz Jones has held weekly virtual townhalls on Facebook. During these town halls, she discusses the pandemic with medical professionals and answers questions submitted by constituents. The latest one occurred on Thursday, where the topic was the impact of COVID-19 on rural communities. 

Wendy Davis

Former state senator Wendy Davis became a Texas progressive legend for her thirteen-hour filibuster of an anti-Choice bill in 2013, as well as her subsequent run for governor in 2014. Now Davis is seeking to unseat Rep. Chip Roy in the 21st District that stretches from Austin to San Antonio. 

Davis has repeatedly criticized Roy’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and its economic fallout, a job that Roy has made easy. Davis slammed the GOP incumbent for being one of only 11 House members to vote against the coronavirus economic relief package, a bill  President Trump and the Republican leadership supported. Davis also sharply rebuked Roy’s comments comparing stay-at-home orders to Nazi Germany, which she called “the latest example of his profound lack of judgment.” 

Lizzie Fletcher

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher is the Democratic incumbent representing the 7th District in Houston. She flipped the district after defeating John Culberson in 2018, and now is seeking to defend her seat from Trump-endorsed challenger Wesley Hunt. 

In addition to holding phone townhalls, Rep. Fletcher has been working hard in Congress to get relief for her constituents during the crisis. Last Friday she announced that $1.7 million in funding would go to two Houston-area community health centers through the CARES Act. She joined a bipartisan effort to get the Department of Health and Human Services to issue guaranteed orders for supplies necessary to fight COVID-19. “This will be an important signal to private industry that a buyer exists and incentivize manufacturers to dramatically increase production,” she wrote on Twitter.  

Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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