Community Organizer Heidi Sloan Announces Candidacy for TX-25
Joins Dem primary race in Austin-to-Fort Worth district
By Michael King,
7:00AM, Tue. Aug. 13, 2019
On Sunday, community organizer and farmer Heidi Sloan held her Congressional campaign kickoff at the Hard Luck Lounge, joining Julie Oliver in the race for the Dem nomination to challenge GOP incumbent Roger Williams. Sloan says she’s running for “Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, workers’ rights, and safety & liberation for marginalized people.”
Sloan is a former school teacher who now works at the Community First Village of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, where she created the farming program that both feeds residents and provides employment. Her political experience is primarily in Austin city politics, as an organizer for the Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America – particularly in the successful campaigns for paid sick leave for Austin workers, and to encourage U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett to support Medicare for All.
At its inception, Sloan’s campaign emphasizes universal health care, affordable housing, workers’ rights, action against climate change (Green New Deal), and defense of reproductive rights. Sloan told the Chronicle that her earlier organizing campaigns, talking to voters and to workers about public issues, led steadily to her decision to run. “I love working in campaigns in Austin and across the state,” she said, “as local communities stand up and fight for what we need.”
“And these are the same needs across Austin, and Texas, and across the nation,” she continued. “We need universal health care, housing, the right to organize in our work places … in Texas, and across the nation.” She came to believe that best place for her to work for those changes was in a congressional campaign.
On major federal policy issues – e.g., Medicare for All and the Green New Deal – Oliver and Sloan each acknowledged there are no dramatic differences between them. Oliver said there appear to be few distinctions between “our policies and goals,” but cited as important “the work we put in in our campaign of 2018, before anyone thought this race was winnable,” citing a swing of nearly 12 percentage points from previous Democratic campaigns. “I was here doing the work in 2018,” she said.
“One other thing,” Oliver continued. “I have the lived experience of being homeless. I have the lived experience of being a Medicaid mom, with a special needs child. … I know directly the challenges that this community faces.”
Sloan said she believes that an important difference is her emphasis that “electoral politics are only part of the equation, that we have got to organize – build strength in our families, workplaces, and communities … I want to push into this idea that electoral politics can be a platform for organizing.” She added that as a DSA member, “I have a critique of our economic system as a whole. … The heart of it, is that unless we are addressing the exploitative nature of capital as it exists in this country, we can’t make the fundamental changes that we need to make.”
Oliver, who defeated four other Democrats in the 2017 primary before taking on four-term incumbent Williams in 2018 (a 9-point loss), said she welcomes Sloan’s entry into the race, hoping a real contest will help drive a TX-25 voter turnout that will “expand the electorate” and improve Democratic odds in 2020. “We have a very ambitious goal, of registering more voters and turning more voters out,” Oliver said, “than any congressional campaign in Texas history. If we can get there by having a primary – great.”
As for the differences between the DSA and the Democrats, Oliver said, “I honestly think that labels don’t matter much – that labels are wearing thin. What counts is people believing that you can give them true representation.” Oliver added that she feels stronger enthusiasm among supporters than in 2018, including among some former Republicans who have said they will be voting for Democrats next year. (One other candidate, Christian Alexander Johnson, has filed for the Democratic primary, but has yet to establish a public campaign presence, in person or online.)
Sloan said she would begin canvassing Austin voters in the next couple of weeks, and hopes to raise sufficient resources to campaign in all 13 TX-25 counties, as Oliver has done. “We want to keep organizing in Austin on health care, on criminal justice, on homelessness – to let people know that, here is this world that is possible, that you should organize, and that voting is part of it. We will aim for the whole district, and our plan is to talk to 100,000 people. We want to make gerrymandering a tool that is obsolete, because they can no longer separate us.”