A Letter From Mike Siegel: Why I’m supporting Greg Casar in TX-35

Dear Blue America readers,

First of all, thank you. Your support in my race for Congress in 2020 and 2018 was instrumental in helping me build a movement that encompassed support from unions, Sunrise, Bernie, AOC, and a broad coalition of progressives and activists. I didn’t win the general election but we scared the GOP out of Austin and now we have some new opportunities to send true progressives to Congress.

I’m writing today in support of my friend Greg Casar, who announced his exploratory committee for the Texas 35th yesterday. I’ve been working with Greg over several years, first as a city attorney for the City of Austin, and more recently as a candidate and movement builder in communities across Texas. Long story short, Greg has been instrumental in countless progressive movements over the last decade or more, and would be the best person Texas has sent to Congress, perhaps ever.

I first met Greg when I was suing slum landlords in the Austin city attorneys office. He was the only city council member actively referring cases for code enforcement. And at the same time, he was actively working with tenants rights groups to identify more housing complexes that needed attention. Together we successfully sued multiple huge landlords and in the process, forced sales of massive apartment complexes and convinced the new owners to enshrine affordable housing guarantees and just cause eviction protections.

Our next project together was suing Texas Governor Greg Abbott to stop an anti-immigrant law, Texas Senate Bill 4. This was in 2017, after Trump was elected and the Texas GOP started kissing up to him ad nauseum, but before Beto O’Rourke ran for Senate. The fight against SB4 was a massive grassroots battle that laid the foundation for statewide progressive organizing for years to come.

And Greg was at the heart of it. He convinced the Austin mayor and city council to authorize a lawsuit against the Governor. (I was assigned as the lead lawyer for the City.) He then worked with community groups to help convince cities across Texas to join the legal fight. Not just Austin, but San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso, and Houston. Small and midsize cities and numerous counties. The ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. A massive, unprecedented coalition of the biggest cities and counties, and plenty of smaller municipalities, all joining together to sue the Governor and the State of Texas. It was the case of my legal career, but the lawsuit was only part of the broader political strategy that Greg was helping lead.

This is what Greg was doing in his first term as a city councilman. Since then he’s convinced Austin to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in affordable housing. He’s helped lead a movement to decriminalize marijuana and stop arresting people for petty crimes. He’s been a staunch ally for labor and abortion rights organizations and LGBTQIA groups. He’s a real mensch, as my Jewish family would say.

And now Greg is poised to become a Congressman, representing a community in the Texas 35th that runs north/south from San Antonio to Austin and includes a big college town in between. It is a predominantly Latino district that has been represented by Lloyd Doggett and is now an open seat. It’s Greg’s to win, provided we all do our part.

You’ll be hearing more about Greg’s campaign in the weeks ahead, and I’ll write to share more, but here’s what I’ll conclude with now: Greg can be a transformational leader for Texas. Maybe he’s our Cori Bush, who staged a sit-in on the steps of Congress and helped keep millions of people in their homes. Maybe he’s our Andy Levin, a union brother who will bring the fight against “right to work” laws to the halls of Congress. Or maybe he’s a genre all his own. We’ll have to see.

But if you’ve been concerned about the abortion ban in Texas, or the racist gerrymander, or our Governor who waved his hands in the air after the deadly February freeze instead of taking real action to protect the lives of Texans, well, here’s your chance to do something about it.

Because we can’t just wave our wands and undo decades of rightwing organizing in Texas. It’s going to take a concerted, multi year effort to build a true progressive base here. But right now, we can elect a champion for working people-- a person who will make a difference for not just his own district, but for the state and the nation.

Let’s make Greg Casar a Congressman.