In March 2018 when Beto O’Rourke ran in the Democratic Primary, he faced only two other candidates, both of whom were unknowns with no background suggesting they understood campaigns or even government. His near miss in the general election prompted pundits to claim that Texas was turning purple from its long-time red status.

In 2020, we see the fruit of that close race with a dozen candidates, three hold or have held public office, three lead community or labor organizations, one ran for office in 2018 and came about as close to beating their Republican opponent as Beto did. Two more ran for office in 2018 but didn’t make it out of the primary.

The field is crowded with some really interesting candidates and I think we have a tremendous opportunity to win this Senate seat.

To me, the most important issue is climate change because the window for holding back the worst effects of our greenhouse gases is fast approaching, yet our federal and state governments are doing next to nothing to address it. I’ve found that the candidates who recognize the urgency of that issue also generally hold views similar to mine on a wide range of other issues as well. Healthcare, a living wage, education, criminal justice reform, and immigration are important to them too though some don’t go as far as I wish with their proposed solutions.

My top two are both women — Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez and MJ Hegar. Ramirez is a labor organizer and working mother who co-founded the Workers Defense Project, serving as its executive director from 2006 until 2016 when she started Jolt.

Jolt is a civil rights organization that works to amplify the voices of Texas Latinos on issues impacting them. Jolt organizes communities on issues and elections ranging from local school boards all the way to Congress.  Jolt works to accomplish this through voter engagement, leadership development and community and student organizing. Remember that a certain former president, by the name of Barack Obama, was once a community organizer.

Hegar is a retired Air Force major and working mother who ran for U.S. Congress in 2018. She is a former combat search-and-rescue pilot, served three tours in Afghanistan and was awarded a Purple Heart after she was shot down by enemy fire, protecting her crew and patients.

She was also part of a 2012 lawsuit against then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta challenging the ban on women in ground combat. Hegar has a compelling personal story told in a video created for her 2018 U.S. House campaign. Check it out on YouTube; just search for MJ Hegar Doors.

Other major candidates include: Amanda Edwards, who is a current Houston City Council member and former member of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s staff; Royce West, who is a long-time Texas state senator out of Dallas with a solid track record; Chris Bell, who is a former U.S. Representative for Texas’s 25th congressional district, Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas in 2006, and candidate for mayor of Houston in 2015; Sema Hernandez, who is a community organizer for the Poor People’s Campaign and Democratic primary candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018; and Michael Cooper, who is a pastor, NAACP chapter head, and Democratic primary candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Texas in 2018.

Early voting for the Primary starts Feb. 18 so you don’t have much time left to do your homework and decide which candidate ticks the most boxes for you. Get started soon because there are other contested races you need to check out besides president and U.S. senate.

JC Dufresne is a liberal activist and current member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, representing Senate District 25.

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