December 4, 2020

Mask wearing has been politicized, and now is a defining issue in a hot North Texas congressional race

In Candace Valenzuela’s newest tv business, three voters look straight into the digital camera and canopy their noses and mouths with masks.

Then, as photos of Beth Van Duyne — Valenzuela’s Republican opponent — and President Donald Trump flash throughout the display screen, a narrator says they “downplayed the pandemic.”

Trump’s dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic has change into the dominant political storyline of the 2020 election. Democrats, from former Vice President Joe Biden down the ticket, are working on a promise to curb the pandemic that has killed greater than 223,000 Individuals and contaminated one other eight million.

Whereas the pandemic is a think about almost each political race this fall, it has change into a pitched and private conflict within the multimillion greenback race between Valenzuela and Van Duyne to signify Texas’ 24th Congressional District.

Candace Valenzuela, the Democratic candidate running for Texas' 24th Congressional District House, removes her mask to speak at former second lady Jill Biden's drive-in campaign rally stop at Fair Park in Dallas, Tuesday, October 13, 2020. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)
Candace Valenzuela, the Democratic candidate working for Texas’ 24th Congressional District Home, removes her masks to talk at former second woman Jill Biden’s drive-in marketing campaign rally cease at Honest Park in Dallas, Tuesday, October 13, 2020. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning Information) (Tom Fox / Employees Photographer)

As soon as a Republican stronghold that features elements of Dallas, Tarant and Denton counties, the suburban district has change into extra aggressive within the area this yr. Democrats see the open seat as a key pickup to develop their help within the suburbs. Republicans see it as a must-win if the occasion has any likelihood of regaining management of the U.S. Home within the close to future.

Van Duyne, who served in Trump’s housing division, has attacked Valenzuela for not campaigning in individual. Valenzuela, the Democrat and former Carrollton-Farmers Department faculty board trustee, lives along with her aged mother-in-law, who’s at the next danger of dying from COVID-19 if she’s uncovered.

The Democrats’ allies have painted Van Duyne as reckless, whilst she has tried to stroll a center path between a far-right base that equates masks mandates to tyrannical overreach and suburban voters who need to preserve their households protected.

Masks carrying has change into a proxy battle among the many most polarized partisans. It’s now a cultural and political image — partially because of Trump, who battled COVID0-19 himself and has mocked Biden for carrying a masks.

Van Duyne’s uneven use of facial coverings has change into a flashpoint for Valenzeula’s camp.

“Over 17,000 Texans have died due to COVID-19, however Beth Van Duyne insists on recklessly opposing Texas’ statewide masks mandate and refusing to socially distance,” Valenzuela’s marketing campaign supervisor Geoff Simpson stated in an announcement earlier this week.

The assertion included photos of Van Duyne not carrying a masks near others who took half in taking pictures tv commercials — together with diners at a restaurant within the district, the Tarrant County sheriff and a few of his deputies, and fellow Republican congressional candidates. The images have been initially revealed on Van Duyne’s social media accounts.

The Dallas Morning Information has additionally obtained two images of Van Duyne at fundraisers not carrying a masks. In a single, she is seated with others consuming at a brunch fundraiser. Within the different, she is posing for a selfie with a voter she had simply met at a fundraiser this week. The Information is just not republishing these photos to guard the privateness of the voters within the photos. The Van Duyne marketing campaign has not challenged the picture’s authenticity.

Van Duyne, in quite a few interviews this fall, has stated she is in help of “frequent sense” options to preventing the virus, however has emphasised reopening the financial system. And she or he has circuitously answered whether or not she helps Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s masks mandate. As a substitute, she argues for “private accountability.”

Abbott has come underneath assault from probably the most conservative members of the GOP for his dealing with of the virus — significantly a months-long stay-at-home order and masks.

Abbott’s mandate, put in place final July, requires people to put on masks in most public locations. Exceptions embody when consuming or consuming, exercising outdoor, voting and attending worship, and when doing so would hurt an individual with a medical situation. The Facilities for Illness and Management recommends — however doesn’t mandate — that individuals put on masks when not at residence, with a lot fewer exceptions than Abbott’s order.

The objective of masks carrying is to stop the virus, which travels in droplets from coughs and sneezes, in addition to aerosols from talking, screaming and heavy respiratory, from coming into the air. It’s a tactic that public well being officers name supply management. The masks is particularly necessary, scientists say, to stop the unfold from individuals who have no idea they’re contagious.

Buddy Luce, an area chief of the progressive grassroots group Indivisible, stated Van Duyne’s failure to observe science and her unwillingness to carry Trump accountable disqualifies her.

“President Trump continues to be making masks carrying a problem. He desires to disregard the virus and put folks in danger,” he stated. “Beth Van Duyne is 100-and-20,000-times desirous to be like Donald Trump. Selecting to disregard all drugs and science, disregarding the exponential development in loss of life, is immoral.”

Van Duyne’s marketing campaign has developed a brief checklist of security procedures. Amongst them: All staffers should self-screen for COVID-19 signs earlier than coming into the workplace or partaking with voters, the workplace is cleaned every day with disinfectant and all employees and volunteers whereas campaigning are inspired to put on gloves.

The procedures, supplied to The Information, additionally require all employees and volunteers to observe native ordinances. Nevertheless, the checklist doesn’t particularly handle using masks. And the marketing campaign didn’t elaborate, when requested what Van Duyne’s private requirements are to put on a masks in public.

“For the previous seven months, Beth has been talking with small enterprise house owners and workers about easy methods to safely get North Texans working once more to guard lives and livelihoods,” Van Duyne’s marketing campaign supervisor Donald Rickard stated in an announcement. “Candace is extra involved about taking part in masks police and protecting folks locked down than she is about empowering our households to get again to work.”

Longtime Republican political guide Vinny Minchillo stated Van Duyne and different Republicans working in blended districts are in a troublesome spot between not alienating members of their base who consider Trump can do no mistaken and voters incensed over his administration of the virus.

“She’s tried actually laborious to be smart and be applicable, as any good mother would,” he stated. “But when she’s speaking about masks and COVID, she’s on protection.”

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