Oliver – en route home from a Circle C meet-and-greet – had just passed 42,000 miles on her odometer, covering her 13-county TX-25. "I'm not exhausted," she insists. "Every day, as we get closer to the election, I have this intensity building within me, and I'm feeling the energy."
Oliver's enthusiasm can persuade a listener that she'll win easily, although she knows she's running uphill in a district drawn to re-elect three-term GOP incumbent Roger Williams. "Every week, there are more people showing up and getting involved," Oliver says, and even small-town, rural areas are turning out for her campaign. In part, that has been fueled by Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke. Oliver and Kim Olson (Dem nominee for Ag Commissioner) opened for O'Rourke in Hamilton, and 300 people showed up – "that's probably 10% of the entire county," Oliver says. She's done nearly as well in other events without the senatorial headliner. "People are getting involved, and want to know who I am. ... It feels good, it feels right."
Like her Dem cohorts, she says health care is much on voters' minds, sometimes acutely. "In Bosque County, their hospital is closing, and they're trying to save it by forming a hospital district – but the property taxes to make it work would be much higher than Central Health in Travis County. ... If it closes, they would lose the hospital, the emergency center to stabilize people – and a major employer." Her opponent, she says, is instead advocating cutting "payroll taxes" by half – not mentioning that means Medicare and Social Security. "That would also mean cutting services in half."
Like the other GOP incumbents running in heavily gerrymandered districts, Williams is ignoring Oliver and expecting victory. He's ignoring his constituents as well – when a few attended a GOP event in Hamilton, they were told they could not ask questions unless they were dues-paying Republicans.
Oliver says she sees hopeful numbers. In the 2014 primaries, Republican voters outnumbered Democrats 73%-27%; in 2018, the difference had shrunk to 55%-45%. "It's crazy this year, and so different," Oliver argues. "Aside from Trump as a huge motivator for a lot of people, people are stepping up and doing really great GOTV efforts." She notes specifically a group that has been block-walking for her campaign every weekend in East Austin, at the southeastern edge of her strangely drawn district. "Those folks have been used to feeling they are disenfranchised," she says. "When people reach out to them the second or third time, they become convinced that you've got to do this, you've got to vote.
"When you have respectful, courageous conversations," says Oliver, "people respond. ... We have to get people to vote who either didn't vote in the primaries or just don't vote – and those people are almost always Democrats."
FiveThirtyEight odds of D pickup: 1 in 20 (5.8%)
Roger Williams: "Under the Trump Administration, we've cut taxes, putting more money back in the pockets of hard working Americans. We've cut regulations, unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses. #MAGA"
Other candidates: Desarae Lindsey (Libertarian)
Money race (as of June 30):
Williams: $1.1 million raised, $1.2 million cash on hand
Oliver: $202,173 raised, $78,146 COH
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