Image via screengrab Donna Imam
Image via screengrab

A new Public Policy Polling poll finds incumbent Republican Rep. John Carter leading Democratic challenger Donna Imam by only six points.

With less than two months to go until Election Day, an increasing number of eyes are looking toward Texas, where Republicans are fighting to keep their grip on the once-reliably conservative state.

There is perhaps no better sign of Texas’ shift toward Democrats than what’s happening in the state’s 31st Congressional District. The previously deep red district north of Austin has shifted dramatically in recent years, and a new poll obtained exclusively by COURIER shows incumbent Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) is vulnerable. 

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), found Carter leading challenger Donna Imam by only six points, 43-37 among 831 voters in the district. Libertarian Clark Patterson and Independent Jeremy Bravo tallied 10% of the vote combined, while 11% of voters remained undecided. 

Imam performs particularly well with independent voters, leading Carter 44-28. She also appears to have significant room to grow, as 53% of voters said they were unsure whether or not they had a favorable opinion about her.

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The poll also surveyed voters on the presidential race and found that President Donald Trump holds a narrow one-point lead (48-47) over Democratic nominee Joe Biden, a substantial shift from 2016 when Trump won the district 54-41.

Texas’ 31st district is one of many suburban districts across the state and country that have moved toward Democrats during the Trump era, giving the party hope that it can finally flip Texas blue. National Democrats are targeting 10 House seats and Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s Senate seat, while state Democrats and a cadre of local and national groups aim to flip control of the Texas state house to Democrats for the first time since 2002.

While Democrats have set their eyes on several prizes across the state, the recent blue shift in the 31st has been particularly notable. Between 2002 and 2016, Carter won each of his elections by at least 20 points. But in 2018, Carter faced the fight of his career and narrowly edged out his Democratic challenger, MJ Hegar, by only three points. Hegar is now challenging Cornyn and finds herself down only 2 points in the district (48-46), according to the PPP poll. 

In her first ever run for political office, Imam is looking to finish what Hegar started in 2018. A 44-year-old engineer, Imam came to the US as a teenager after spending most of her childhood in New Zealand. Despite her newcomer status, Imam has received endorsements from the likes of Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, and Beto O’Rourke. 

The candidate has centered her campaign around economic stability, telling the Killeen Daily Herald that since Carter entered office, residents have seen the cost of living, health care, child care, and education rise, while wages and benefits have “stagnated.” 

Imam’s platform calls for a healthcare plan that would provide coverage for all through a single-payer plan that builds toward Medicare for All, reducing the cost of care and prescription drugs. She also wants to drastically reform the federal loan program to help struggling student borrowers, raise worker pay, and bring high-wage jobs to the district. 

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The 31st District covers most of Fort Hood, and Imam told the Daily Herald that she will fight to increase pay for active-duty soldiers, guarantee them access to high-quality housing, and improve their access to health care. 

“Today, many veterans are forced to take a whole day off from work to see a doctor at a VA clinic far from where they live, only to be turned away,” she said. “My Healthcare for All proposal would guarantee coverage for all veterans at any clinic or hospital and improve the quality of care with more doctors and nurses.”

Carter, meanwhile, has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the landmark healthcare law that has provided insurance to about one million Texans. He also voted to pass the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which disproportionately benefited corporations and the wealthiest Americans and contributed to a surging national debt.

The incumbent Carter remains the favorite in the race—the nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated the district as “Likely Republican”—but if Imam does wind up pulling off a victory, it could serve as something of a bellwether for the rest of Texas and help usher in a new era of Democratic victory in the Lone Star state. 

Public Policy Polling surveyed 831 Texas 31st Congressional District voters from August 26-27, 2020. The margin of error is +/- 3.4%. Fifty percent of interviews for the survey were conducted by telephone and 50% by text message. See the full poll here.