Julie Oliver, the Democratic candidate for Texas’ 25th Congressional District seat, attended the Burnet County Democratic Club’s virtual town hall on Sept. 20 to answer questions on health care, race, money in politics, and more.
She is challenging Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Roger Williams in the Nov. 3 general election. Early voting is Oct. 13-30.
Oliver began by sharing her personal story: growing up working class in Ovilla, Texas, being homeless as a teen, and relying on Medicaid for prenatal care when she was 17 years old. Then, she pivoted to criticizing her opponent.
“He had an ad saying he has been fighting for people with preexisting conditions in his career in Congress, and I was a bit taken aback by that because he has voted over 60 times to take health care coverage away from folks in this district,” Oliver said.
Oliver, who has 15 years of experience working in health care finance and is a self-styled “Medicaid Mom,” considers Medicare for All one of her central issues.
“It’s strange to hear those words coming out of (Williams’) mouth that he is fighting for folks with preexisting conditions because he has done nothing to help people like my son, who has preexisting conditions,” she said.
On the feasibility of her campaign, Oliver pointed to recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee polling that shows the race to be statistically neck and neck as well as the performance of her campaign in 2018, when she previously challenged Williams.
“We moved the needle in this race,” she said. “When people thought of this race, like, why even bother? This is Roger Williams. Well, we moved the needle 12 percentage points in 2018 to single digits, so I came back to finish this job. We’re going to finish this job in November.”
When asked the question on how, at the federal level, she would address systemic racism, she offered a series of solutions, including ending the private prison system, improving education, reforming student debt, investing in cultural competency in the health care system, ending the federal prohibition on marijuana, and ending qualified immunity for police officers.
“(Systemic racism) is the reason we have the highest maternal mortality rate that disproportionately affects Black women,” Oliver said. “Systemic racism, we see it in policing, too. Members of the community that are Black and brown are killed with impunity. We see it in health care outcomes. We see it in education.”
Regarding immigration, Oliver spoke on expanding working visas, providing a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency to DACA recipients — those brought to the United States illegally as children — and condemned the treatment of immigrants in detention centers.
“I know that this is an issue that is subject to debate. I don’t see why it should be,” Oliver said. “I’m a person of faith. I know what the Bible says. It is very clear about how you should treat foreigners among us. That is not open to debate, in my opinion.”
When asked how she would protect Social Security, Oliver said one option is raising the federal wage limit on Social Security taxes. Another would be cutting excessive military spending and using some of the savings for Social Security.
Oliver also spoke on gun legislation, including an assault weapons ban and bringing back gun registration at a federal level as well as introducing laws that would hold gun manufacturers liable for gun violence.
“I am in favor of common sense gun safety legislation like universal background checks that 90 percent of Americans believe in,” she said. “This is a disconnect between what Congress is doing and what the people want.”
Regarding the environmental Green New Deal, she discussed carbon-fee programs and redeploying people that work in oil and gas into the green energy sector to build solar farms and windmills, saying that we need meaningful steps toward dealing with climate change.
One submitted question was for Oliver to name issues she thought would appeal specifically to rural Texans. She again highlighted health care, this time focusing on the health of rural hospitals.
“Health care, shoring up rural hospitals, making sure that they’re funded. We have a rural hospital closure crisis in Texas,” she said. “Ensuring that we meaningfully address the funding of rural hospitals because they are incredibly important to the communities across Texas.”
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