Running for Congress while responding to a pandemic, these three Texans say they’re uniquely equipped for the job

Dr. Pritesh Gandhi is a candidate for Texas' 10th Congressional District. Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

Pritesh Gandhi had spent months courting abortion-rights and gun safety groups, hoping to win their endorsements in his congressional primary runoff.

But in late April, when his campaign adviser sent him a text to say a prominent group was ready to talk, Gandhi couldn’t immediately take the call.

Covered head to toe in personal protective gear while working at the People’s Community Clinic in East Austin, Gandhi responded with a selfie and a message saying he was tied up but would be available shortly. A primary care physician, he was spending the afternoon collecting nasal swabs from low-income patients to test for the new coronavirus.

Gandhi, who is in the Democratic primary runoff for the 10th Congressional District, is among a group of health care workers from both parties running for office in 2020, when moonlighting as a political candidate during a global pandemic has required a special kind of stamina. When those workers filed paperwork to run for office — weeks before the virus was on the radar of the World Health Organization, let alone American voters — many thought they’d make issues like Medicaid expansion or the Affordable Care Act central to their campaign.

Now, COVID-19 is dominating their bids — and their day jobs.

Gandhi prepares for patients at his medical clinic in northeast Austin.