HOUSTON – With Election Day just a few days away, Democrat Lizzie Fletcher is feeling optimistic.
“It’s going to be a really great day. I think Tuesday is going to be a fantastic day,” Fletcher told a group of campaign volunteers on Friday.
Fletcher is running against Republican incumbent John Culberson in the 7th congressional district in Texas, which covers the western part of Houston. A New York Times/Siena College Poll conducted from October 19 to 25 shows the two candidates in a dead heat.
“I think it’s really exciting. People are focused across the country on this district because we have such a great chance of winning this race,” said Fletcher.
Though President Trump won the state in 2016, Hillary Clinton won the district. Still, Culberson often reminds people that he won his race that year, as well, and adds he’ll win again this midterm election.
“District 7 voters are well-informed, they do their homework, they know John Culberson is the right person in the right place at the right time,” he said after casting his vote in Houston on Friday.
Culberson is relying on a base of moderate Republicans for re-election.
“This is a more affluent district. Republicans here tend to be Bush Republicans where you traditionally have people with high income, high support for business,” said Professor David Branham, a political science professor at the University of Houston-Downtown.
In fact, former president George H.W. Bush, who still lives in the traditionally Republican district, once held it as congressman from 1967 to 1971. Branham believes those supporters who align more with Bush-era views could give Culberson an advantage.
“This district is not a Trump kind of Republican district. Culberson is much more like the Republicans in this district. This is a tough district for Lizzie Fletcher in that she can’t basically run against Trump nearly as easily as somebody else could in a congressional district,” said Branham.
“The district right now, they need to stay with the same absolute, perfect congressman that they have right now—the guy who has been advocating for us, the guy that has gone to bat for us,” said Jennifer McKnight, a staunch supporter of Culberson.
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Fletcher, meanwhile, has used healthcare as a cornerstone of her campaign.
“People throughout the district have talked about their access to affordable healthcare…trying to bring down the costs, bring down the costs of prescription drugs, make sure people have access to care,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher is enjoying a flurry of support brought by the high-profile race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Voters have turned out record-breaking numbers for early voting.
“I feel like our country is going in the wrong direction. And, I hope the Democrats will come out in full force and try to change some things,” said Inga Vickers, who cast her vote on Friday.
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Shifting demographics brought on by Hurricane Harvey last year may also be one reason why the race is close. So, while Republicans currently hold the majority in this district, Branham thinks there’s a chance that might not be the case a few years from now.
“Harvey did a lot of damage to the district, so it’s an issue for everybody, and there’s a lot of new voters. And, a lot of those new voters are more Democrat than the people they’ve replaced before,” said Branham.