December 4, 2020

Congressional battle between Rep. Roger Williams, Julie Oliver spotlights Texas’ evolving political map

WASHINGTON – When Julie Oliver launched a longshot marketing campaign in 2018 to unseat Republican Rep. Roger Williams in a conservative stronghold that stretches out from the Fort Price suburbs, the Democrat stated she “wasn’t considering on the time, ‘Am I going to win?’”

As a substitute, she recalled, her mentality was extra alongside the strains of “Gosh, I hope I can win.”

However after coming inside 9 factors of Williams in that election – after which subsequently elevating a whole bunch of 1000’s of {dollars} extra this cycle than she collected for her bid two years in the past – the previous well being care government stated “one thing has shifted.”

“I do know I can win,” she stated.

It stays to be seen if her confidence is warranted in a principally Central Texas district that President Donald Trump received by 15 factors within the 2016 election, notably since Williams has confused that he’s taking “nothing as a right” and is working his marketing campaign accordingly.

“I be ok with our possibilities,” stated the four-term congressman, who’s additionally scaled up his operation from two years in the past.

The truth that it’s even a query is a testomony to Texas’ evolving political map.

Democrat Julie Oliver speaks with supporters during an event at a precinct captains house in central Austin, Saturday, Sept., 19, 2020. Oliver is running against Texas's 25th district incumbent U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]
Democrat Julie Oliver speaks with supporters throughout an occasion at a precinct captains home in central Austin, Saturday, Sept., 19, 2020. Oliver is working in opposition to Texas’s 25th district incumbent U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, [Stephen Spillman for Statesman](Stephen Spillman / for Statesman)

Williams’ district runs from south of Fort Price by way of Fort Hood on down previous Austin – forming a swath that was designed to be stable GOP turf. However the area’s fast-changing suburbs have altered the political calculus – and Oliver, a former “math-lete,” has seized upon that.

What’s maybe most fascinating amid that backdrop is how Oliver and Williams are working unabashed campaigns.

Williams, the scion of a family-owned automobile dealership empire, touts his enterprise bonafides, saying he serves as a “voice for Primary Avenue” in Washington. Oliver counters that the Republican has “put himself first,” utilizing his affect in Congress to profit his enterprise and his donors.

Oliver, an lawyer, is working as a full-on progressive – saying concepts like Medicare for All and the Inexperienced New Deal will assist “help a powerful and thriving economic system.” Williams counters that the Democrat would lead the U.S. on the trail to monetary smash and outright socialism.

Each candidates draw comparisons between Williams and Trump, with the Republican pitching that as a constructive and the Democrat as a destructive.

“I don’t assume we’ve ever seen a time when we’ve two reverse theories on how they wish to run this nation,” stated Williams, who added that in relation to him and Oliver, “individuals already know the place she stands and the place I stand.”

Williams was elected to Congress in 2012, after GOP-led redistricting efforts turned the 25th Congressional District into extra favorable GOP territory.

The Republican, who served as Texas Secretary of State beneath then-Gov. Rick Perry, has settled right into a spot on the Home Monetary Providers Committee, the place he’s garnered consideration for asking most all witnesses earlier than the panel if they’re capitalists or socialists.

On the marketing campaign path, Williams stated his platform is nearly the identical as when he first ran.

“Decrease taxes. Much less authorities. Reduce spending. Defend borders. Hearken to your generals. Perceive the 10th Modification. Stick with Israel,” he stated. “We’ve added yet another to that, and that’s defend the police, not defund police.”

Whether or not it’s in Washington or again residence in Texas, he nearly at all times gives his perspective by way of the lens of being a enterprise proprietor.

“After we move laws, I’ve gotta dwell with it,” stated the congressman, a Trump endorsee who added with satisfaction that he and the president are “each enterprise homeowners.”

However Oliver scoffs on the notion that Williams has the nook on bringing enterprise expertise to Congress. She cited her personal background as an government and because the former proprietor of a small nail salon, whereas additionally dinging her rival for inheriting, as Trump did, a household enterprise.

The Democrat has additionally sought to show Williams’ enterprise in Weatherford in opposition to him. She’s accused the Republican, who’s among the many very wealthiest members of Congress, of repeatedly legislating with a concentrate on “what’s finest for his dealership.”

One main level of competition is that Williams’s dealership, as first reported by The Dallas Morning Information, utilized for and obtained a forgivable mortgage by way of the Paycheck Safety Program that Congress created this 12 months to assist small companies by way of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican’s use of the fund — designed to cowl companies’ payroll for 2 months — complied with each this system’s guidelines and Home Ethics Committee steerage.

However Oliver has forged Williams’ acceptance of the help cash, later revealed to be between $1 million to $2 million, as an egregious instance of self-dealing, notably since some small companies in Texas and past struggled to entry the fund early on attributable to large demand.

“I’ve an issue with him utilizing his place of public belief to vote for one thing that advantages him,” she stated, noting that Williams’ spouse and daughters are on the dealership’s payroll.

Williams, who rejected Oliver’s broader criticism, stated that his dealership’s actions have been “completely professional.”

He stated his enterprise was one in every of many firms within the district and past that wanted a lift amid the financial downturn that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. He famous that the help obtained by his dealership helped preserve the salaries for a whole bunch of staff.

“I don’t remorse it a bit,” stated Williams, who responded to Oliver’s level about his members of the family working on the dealership by saying it’s a “household enterprise, for crying out loud.”

Williams has additionally highlighted that Oliver’s husband works for a agency that obtained a PPP mortgage. The Republican has made an identical declare about Oliver, and her former employer did obtain such help. However the Democrat’s marketing campaign stated she left the corporate earlier than PPP even existed.

One other main fault line within the race is over well being care.

Oliver – who’s endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for the White Home – stated she was motivated to run for Congress within the first place by Williams and different Republicans voting repeatedly to repeal the Reasonably priced Care Act.

She’s hammered Williams for these efforts, on condition that the well being care legislation enshrines protections for People with pre-existing circumstances.

“That’s what lit the fireplace in me,” Oliver stated, whose son has a coronary heart situation.

Williams, a most cancers survivor, reiterated that “we don’t want Obamacare,” including his view that it’s the “worst laws handed.” However he additionally confused that these with “pre-existing circumstances needs to be coated by insurance coverage firms” – simply not as a operate of the Reasonably priced Care Act.

“They don’t go hand in hand,” he stated, citing his help for a invoice known as the Pre-Present Situations Safety Act.

Williams has additionally used the problem to launch a broader assault in opposition to Oliver, arguing that the Democrat’s help for Medicare for All is an instance of utmost views on every thing from power coverage to policing.

“It’s socialism in opposition to freedom and capitalism. Do you consider within the authorities? Or do you consider within the individuals?” he stated. “It’s an actual scenario, and individuals are going to make that selection come November.”

Oliver responded that Williams is attacking her and her insurance policies as a result of he “fears shedding,” including that she will “run on these progressive insurance policies as a result of they make sense.”

On Medicare for All, Oliver argued that the measure backed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would save lives and finally decrease well being care prices. On the Inexperienced New Deal, the Democrat stated the failure to fight local weather change could be much more expensive than any proposal earlier than Congress.

Oliver additionally dismissed Williams’ efforts to hyperlink her to the “defund the police” motion.

“We completely have to help women and men who’re in legislation enforcement,” she stated. “To me, that appears like supporting them with a crew of different professionals augmenting the groups that help them. As a result of we ask women and men in uniform to do an excessive amount of.”

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