On Monday, Dec. 9, Tom Watson sat in the office of the Texas Secretary of State in Austin. He waited to see if anyone would file to run against Jodey Arrington in Texas’s 19th district.
No one filed. So he did.
“I figured no one would get from Lubbock or Abilene to Austin in those last two hours, so I went ahead and filed,” said Watson, a lawyer based in Abilene.
Republican Jodey Arrington is the current representative in the United States House of Representatives for Texas’s 19th district, which stretches from east of Abilene to the border of New Mexico, according to Ballotpedia.
TX-19 is also one of the most conservative districts in the state – but Watson, a Democrat, said that does not deter him.
“I have had conversations with folks that don’t believe everything the Republicans are doing is right, and so I think there is room for some distinctions,” Watson said. “I believe that I can offer those distinctions, and I intend to do that every opportunity I get.”
Another Democrat, Miguel Levario, challenged Arrington in 2018 and lost by 50 points. Despite the significant loss, Levario said that should not discourage Democrats from running in the district.
“I do understand historically and culturally, 19 is a tough place to win,” Levario said. “But how do you know how far you need to go if you don’t actually try?”
Arrington has a large advantage in the cultural conservativism of the area, Levario said, which dates back to the earliest days of the district. But as cities such as Lubbock continue to grow, he said demographic shifts could pose a threat to the dominance of the Republican party.
Cannon Roberts, Watson’s campaign manager, also pointed out that the district is not so much a Republican-dominated district as it is a non-voting district.
Roberts said there is not as much of a disparity between registered Republicans and registered Democrats in the district as people expect. He said in the previous election cycle, there were about 2,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats in Lubbock County.
Watson said the issue constituents are most concerned about is healthcare. Texas’s 19th district is heavily rural, and he said many rural areas are seeing hospitals close and costs increase.
The end goal on healthcare for Watson is broadening coverage. He said the country should be working toward a single-payer healthcare system, but it needs to be a gradual process with many compromises.
“Those who have coverage have to be willing to work toward broadening that coverage to include other people,” Watson said. “We have to keep in mind that what we’re doing is for everybody and try to work toward everybody’s benefit.”
Watson said he is running for Congress because he believes he understands the concerns of West Texans better than the incumbent, and if elected, he would fight to find solutions to the problems
over which politicians constantly argue.
The election between Watson and Arrington will take place on Nov. 3, according to the Texas Secretary of State.
Hannah Holtz is a junior political journalism major at Texas Tech, president of the Tech Students Democrats, and an intern for the Watson campaign.