Julie Oliver, the Democratic candidate for Texas’ 25th congressional district, which includes Burnet County, is making her second bid against incumbent Republican Rep. Roger Williams. Though soundly defeated in the 2018 race, Oliver did get closer than any other challenger since Williams first won the race in 2012. He received 54 percent of the vote in what is considered a Republican stronghold.
“Its not a red district,” Oliver said. “It was a non-voting district.”
Oliver and Williams are on the Nov. 3 ballot, along with Libertarian Bill Kelsey, for the District 25 seat, which Williams has held since 2012. Even though Texas has been a strong red state, and District 25 seems to reflect that, some people feel it could be in play this year.
Up until the 2010 election, Burnet County was part of the 11th District of Texas for the U.S. House of Representatives, but following the 2010 Census, the Texas Legislature revamped the congressional layout through redistricting and carved out District 25.
The district reaches north to Burleson — just south of Fort Worth — and south through Dripping Springs, encompassing rural areas as well as smaller cities such as Stephenville, Glenn Rose, Gatesville, and Fort Hood and a section of Austin.
Williams won the seat in 2012 with more than 58 percent of the vote against Democrat Elaine M. Henderson at 37 percent and Libertarian Betsy Dewey at 4 percent.
Williams is anti-regulations and pro-tax cuts. As a business owner for 50 years, he said he’s proud to be “a voice of Main Street in Congress” and to “stand up and fight for small business entrepreneurs, and the moms, dads, and grandparents who have devoted their lives to providing for their families and making their communities better.”
Williams has won three re-election bids on those stances, yet Oliver feels things are different this year.
“I feel good,” she said. “I feel so encouraged by what we’re seeing in voter turnout, especially people under 30 turning out in bigger numbers this year.”
Williams won 2014 with just over 60 percent of the vote. In 2016, the congressman won with more than 58 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger Kathi Thomas at 38 percent and Libertarian candidate Loren Marc Schneiderman at 4 percent.
In 2018, Oliver cut into that percentage in her first run against Williams for the District 25 seat. Williams won with about 53.5 percent of the vote over Oliver at about 45 percent.
Since 2018, Oliver and other state Democrats have focused on getting more people registered to vote, which included sending out more than 30,000 voter registration forms. In years past, she said, some people in the district just weren’t turning out or even registered to vote.
In the 2018 ballot count, Williams won 163,023 votes to 136,385 over Oliver. A difference of 26,638 votes.
“We’re expanding the number of people who are registered,” Oliver said. “We’re inviting more people into the process.”
Williams still has strong support in the district, something no challenger can underestimate. While he spends much of his time in Washington, D.C., when Congress is in session, Williams returns to the district as often as he can, meeting with constituents and business owners. To him, it’s not about earning a paycheck but taking care of people.
“We need people who don’t look at Congress as a career but rather as public service to give back. That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “I’ve also learned that you can make two votes in Congress: one to save your political future and one to save America’s future. I have and will always vote to save America’s future.”
Oliver crisscrossed the district during her previous run and this one until the COVID-19 pandemic struck to meet with residents. She said some of her best conversations have been on front porches of people’s homes.
“I miss knocking on doors and talking with people. That’s my favorite part of campaigning,” she said.
Now, she’s focused on virtual events, phone calls, and other strategies amid the pandemic.
For Oliver, one of the big issues this election year is COVID-19, health-wise as well as its impact on businesses and the economy.
“Whether you’re talking the healthcare side or economic side, COVID is something that’s really driving a lot of things right now,” she said.
Congress, Oliver added, must provide direction and leadership to help families and businesses struggling during the pandemic.
Williams believes constituents are concerned about other issues as well.
“Texans in Burnet County are concerned with the safety of their families, the strength of our economy, lower healthcare costs, and protecting coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and that is what our message is all about,” he said.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit the DailyTrib.com How to Vote Guide for a list of voting locations in Burnet and Llano counties and other important election information.