Dave McNeely

Dave McNeely

Ask people to vote for you, as much as possible.

Think of politics as a team sport. Help your fellow Democratic candidates as they help you. We’re all in this together.

Don’t get so involved in arguing about the perfect solution to the problem that you lose sight of what the problem is.

Be ready, and eager, to work across the aisle.

Those were some tips from four Democrats hoping to flip four Texas congressional districts currently held by Republicans.

Each of the four lost their last election – which for three of them was also their first election.

The four are former Fort Worth state senator Wendy Davis; former diplomat Sri Kulkarni; former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones; and retired Air Force pilot Col. Kim Olson.

The four districts are among the six the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted in Texas – considered a swing state in 2020 for the first time in decades.

The four participated in a panel discussion Friday, as part of the Texas Tribune’s annual TribFest in Austin.

Here’s more about the candidates, and the districts:

Wendy Davis, 56, is a former state senator from Fort Worth (2009-2015). She was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014. She lost to then-Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott, by more than 20 percent, in what Davis called “a tough election cycle.”

Now living in Austin, she is running in the 21st Congressional District, which takes in parts of Austin, San Antonio, and several counties further west.

Republican Chip Roy, 47, a former chief of staff for Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, was elected in 2018 after longtime U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith retired.

In the usually solid Republican district, Roy won by just 2.6 percent over Democrat Joseph Kopser.

Davis said she is enjoying running in a contained district rather than statewide, because she gets more direct contact with people.

“I’m back in my comfort zone,” Davis said.

Sri Kulkarni, 40, is running again in the 22nd Congressional District, in southeast Houston and Fort Bend County.

The Republican incumbent, Pete Olson, 56, beat Kulkarni by 4.9 percent in 2018 – his narrowest victory since his first election in 2008. Olson says he is not seeking re-election.

Kulkarni said he learned in his earlier race how demographically diverse and continually changing the district is. The former diplomat, who speaks six languages, said his team in 2018 worked to target and ask for votes in at least 15 different languages.

For 2020, he’s already got a lot of voter lists and the languages in which to communicate, and a better grasp of how to contact as many people as possible to ask for their vote in their own first language.

Gina Ortiz Jones, 38, an Iraq War veteran and Air Force intelligence officer is running again in Texas’s largest district – the 23rd, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso along the Texas-Mexico border, and is larger than 30 states.

In 2018, she lost to Republican incumbent Will Hurd, 42, by 0.44 percent – 926 votes.

Hurd, himself a former intelligence officer, who is in his third term in the swing district, is the only African-American Republican in Congress. A few weeks ago, he said he won’t seek re-election.

In recent days, he has mentioned running for president in 2024.

Jones, the daughter of a Filipina single mother, who grew up in poorer sections of San Antonio, said she can best represent the district because she knows what its residents have experienced.

With help from government programs, she went from free-lunch programs to earn an ROTC scholarship to Boston University before serving in the Air Force and Iraq. Eventually, her military and national security experience resulted in her working in the executive office of the White House.

Kim Olson, 61, is a retired Air Force pilot and colonel. She was the Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner against incumbent Republican Sid Miller in 2018. He beat her by 4.6 percent.

Olson, who after her Air Force retirement served as human resources director for the Dallas Independent School District, is seeking to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant in the 24th Congressional District in the Mid-Cities area between Dallas and Fort Worth.

After 18 years in the Texas House, Marchant was elected to congress in 2004. But in 2018, he beat Democrat Jan McDowell by just 3.07 percent. She is running again, along with Olson and several others.

Now 68, Marchant decided not to seek re-election.

# # #

For the record, understand that all four of the candidates mentioned here face contested primary elections to become the Democratic nominee in their district.

McNeely is the dean of the Texas Capitol press corps. Contact McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com or 512/458-2963.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.