Julie Oliver, Campaigning on Medicare for All, Loses Texas House Race

Oliver’s second effort to flip a suburban Austin district held by Republican Rep. Roger Williams fell short.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - JULY 02: Julie Oliver, attorney and candidate for US House District 25 (D) speaks during #CloseTheCamps: MoveOn, United We Dream, American Friends Service Committee, and Families Belong Together led protests across the country at members of Congress's offices to demand the closure of inhumane immigrant detention centers that subject children and families to horrific conditions. Constituents delivered a letter asking the members to visit a detention facility this week, stop funding family detention and deportation, and use all their powers to close the camps on July 02, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for MoveOn.org Civic Action)
Julie Oliver, attorney and U.S. House candidate, speaks during a #CloseTheCamps event protesting abuses by ICE and CBP on July 2, 2019, in Austin. Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

Julie Oliver, who campaigned heavily on Medicare for All and hoped to flip a suburban Austin district blue, fell about 14 percentage points short as of Tuesday night, with 94 percent of results counted. Texas’s 25th Congressional District was once a Democratic stronghold, but after a contentious Republican-led redistricting process in 2011, Roger Williams won it in 2013 and has won reelection handily ever since.

Oliver, an attorney with two decades of experience in health care finance, mounted a challenge against Williams in 2018 but came up 8.7 points short. But Donald Trump had won the district in 2016 by 14.8 points, so Oliver saw the glass half full, especially as suburbs generally have been trending in Democrats’ favor. Texas was called for Trump shortly after midnight on Election Day, with the president leading Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by about 6 points, with 93 percent of results counted.

“Thousands of people chipped in whatever they could afford to this campaign, because they recognize our healthcare system is broken and ensuring that every American has healthcare is a moral and economic necessity,” Oliver said in a statement Tuesday night. “Gerrymandering sucks. And Texas deserves better.”

Oliver virtually never stopped campaigning after the 2018 election and had hoped that sustained dedicated effort would put her over the edge. She campaigned on some of her formative personal experiences, like losing her health insurance at 18, just two months after her daughter was born. Her son also has preexisting conditions, and when Williams voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, Oliver said she felt she had to jump in the race.

Oliver ran on a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and an end to mass incarceration. She beat a DSA-backed candidate running to her left in the primary, and was backed by progressive leaders like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and groups like the Sunrise Movement, the Working Families Party, and Indivisible. The DCCC also added Oliver’s race onto its “red-to-blue” list at the end of the summer, based on promising internal poll numbers and Oliver’s impressive fundraising. In August, despite not accepting any PAC money, Oliver raised more than $250,000 and outraised Williams by 235 percent in the second quarter of the year.


Williams, however, was a well-funded candidate. He owns a car dealership, and was the ninth-richest member of the House in 2018. Williams serves on the powerful House Financial Services Committee and has aligned himself closely with Trump, voting with the president over 94 percent of the time. When Trump declared a state of emergency to seize funding for his border wall last year, Williams defended the move, insisting in a statement that Trump had “no option” but to do so.

Texas has the fastest-growing population in the United States, and the influx of new residents is rapidly changing the state’s demographics. In 2018, for example, for every one white person who moved to Texas, nearly nine Hispanics arrived. Voting patterns are also changing: Beto O’Rourke’s near-successful challenge to GOP Sen. Ted Cruz was the closest Senate race in the state in four decades. This cycle, O’Rourke has been working to mobilize his massive campaign list to help elect other Democrats.

In addition to demographic trends that could have boded well for Oliver, Texas Monthly reported that three of the four Texas counties that added the most new voters since 2018 fall partially within Texas’s 25th Congressional District. Oliver had banked on momentum from Biden’s run and broader Democratic organizing throughout the state. Biden endorsed her last month, saying, “She’s overcome poverty, homelessness and raised a son with a preexisting condition. She’s a champion for her community, fighting for affordable health care, housing, education, and good jobs in the clean economy. I’m proud to endorse Julie because we need leaders like her fighting for working families in Congress.”

Still, Oliver had run against an incumbent in a gerrymandered district, and turnout was higher for Republicans than it was during the midterms. The Cook Political Report had projected the race as “likely Republican,” although an internal DCCC poll from July had found Oliver behind by just 2 points — 45 percent to 43 percent.

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