May 2018 Runoff Guide
LEFT UP TO US formed in the spring of 2016 when local volunteers for the Bernie Sanders campaign organized to promote progressive change in the Austin area. We are answering the call for a political revolution by engaging and educating the community, collaborating with other local activist groups, and advocating for local candidates and issues. It is in the spirit of this mission that we have put together this guide for you.
Our positions are guided by the Left Up To US Platform, which you can view here. We officially endorse candidates in seven runoff races; these endorsements are the result of a democratic vote among our members. For races in which we make no official endorsement, we provide information about the candidates that we believe will be useful to progressive voters. We would love to cover everything on every Central Texas progressive’s 2017 midterm primary election ballot, but as a fairly new organization we don’t (yet!) have the resources for such an endeavor. What we do have is the culmination of research on eleven Central Texas races by our hardworking progressive volunteers.
EARLY VOTING: May 14th - 18th
VOTING DAY: May 22nd
✅Left Up to Us endorses Mike Siegel (D-TX)
Siegel’s strong support for working people and immigrant families is informed by his years of experience as a civil rights attorney and his recent representation of the City of Austin against Senate Bill 4. He supports Medicare for All and has specific policy ideas regarding everything from criminal justice reform to renewable energy. His campaign has developed a professional campaign infrastructure and mobilized 150 volunteers throughout the district, and he hopes to organize a thousand volunteers by November. Siegel is also endorsed by Austin Central Labor Council, the Gulf Coast Labor Federation, AFSCME Local 1624, and UNITE HERE Local 23.
Tawana Walter-Cadien (D-TX)is a Texas native living in Cypress with a degree in public administration and a degree in nursing. She served on her local community’s democratic executive committee and was elected twice as Chair of Jefferson County Precinct 26. She ran for this seat in 2012 and won in the primaries but lost to Michael T. McCaul. She is currently focused on expanding healthcare to everyone, passing bills that support the rights of veterans, enforcing legislation that supports senior citizens, and working on forward-looking education reform. She also endorses strong Homeland Security and intends to “support bills designed to truly protect our home and her people.”
✅LEFT UP TO US ENDORSES Mary Wilson (D-TX)
Mary Wilson is our endorsed candidate for CD 21. Mary led in the March 6 primary, besting the three other male candidates in the race. Because of her career as a public school and public college teacher, Mary has a strong record of advocacy for public education, both k-12 and higher education. More recently she is a minister at a progressive church in Cedar Park; she believes in the separation of church and state and respect for non-religious people. She has a record of progressive advocacy in opposition to the bathroom bill and opposing school vouchers as a drain on public education. As a faith leader she has spoken out against the anti-muslim and anti-immigrant actions of both President Trump and Governor Abbott. She actively supported the Standing Rock Native American struggle against the Dakota pipeline, and she advocates for a net-zero carbon economy by 2035. She is strong feminist and has publicly supported Planned Parenthood and reproductive justice. As a lesbian she has advocated against hate and for the rights of her LGBTQ community at the Texas Capitol. She broadly supports several progressive causes, including immigration reform, public school funding, universal health care, and gun safety legislation.
Joseph Kopser (D-TX)
A tech entrepreneur, 20-year army veteran, and former Reagan Republican, Kopser seeks moderate, incremental progressive change. He supports a Medicare buy-in option for people who qualify for insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, a public option, and insurance rate regulation. To address mass incarceration, he wants to regulate private prisons, abolish mandatory minimum sentences, and fund drug and mental health courts. He recently came out in favor of a $15/hour minimum wage, although early in the campaign he expressed concern that the higher the minimum wage gets, the faster technology will replace workers. In addition to promoting renewable energy, Kopser advocates a transition away from fossil fuels through “transparent” natural gas fracking, and he’s stated that “the science on fracking is questionable.” Kopser sits on the board of the Texas Association of Business and the Austin Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Truman National Security Project, and helped found Bunker Labs Austin, a start-up incubator for veterans. Kopser's fundraising emphasizes small donations and help from four political action committees (PACs), including Rep. Seth Moulton’s Serve America PAC, Joe Trippi’s 314 Action PAC, Matt Angle’s Lone Star Project PAC, and VoteVets PAC. Kopser came under fire during the course of the primary for repeated plagiarism as well as for receiving help from the DCCC before the primary was decided. At a recent forum in Bandera County, he compared the U.S.-Mexico border to the Iran-Iraq border and called for its militarization and voiced support for "border zones". Kopser is endorsed by Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, Texas State Senator Kirk Watson, Texas State House Rep Donna Howard, San Antonio Judge Nelson Wolff, and ATX Dem Vets.
✅LEFT UP TO US ENDORSES Chris Perri (D-TX)
Perri supports campaign finance reform, ending gerrymandering, and promoting universal health care either through single-payer or by requiring private companies to become nonprofits. He wants to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and increase incentives for renewables, and he supports a progressive income tax and a $15/hour minimum wage. Perri wants a Clean DREAM Act, expand DACA, and remove red tape from the process of obtaining legal immigrant status. His vision for criminal justice reform emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration into society; both he and Paul Quinzi helped found the UT’s Expunction Project that gives pro bono help for criminal record cleanup. Perri made headlines on the campaign trail over the summer for debating InfoWars street reporter Owen Shroyer in front of the Texas Capitol.
Julie Oliver (D-TX)
Oliver serves on the board of managers for the Travis County Healthcare District. She supports instituting Medicare for All and strengthening women’s health care. She wants to connect Texans with jobs by investing in training, certification, and apprenticeship programs. She prioritizes strengthening democracy by ending gerrymandering and the influence of dark money, strengthening voting rights and implementing term limits. She supports full equality for LGBTQ people, comprehensive and humane immigration reform, and comprehensive criminal justice reform. She wants to increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy, increase the minimum wage to at least $15/hour, and fight climate change through environmental protections.
Christine Mann (D-TX)
Mann has been a practicing physician in Cedar Park, TX for 18 years. She is a lifelong Democrat and is best known in the community as the Wilco Indivisible founder and activist. She believes that the minimum wage should keep up with inflation and needs to be raised to $15/hour. She is strong on women’s rights and voting rights and supports requiring more background checks on gun sales. She supports renewable energy, LGBTQ rights, and universal pre-K education. She has been an advocate for a single-payer, Medicare for All healthcare system since 2009. She advocates for debt-free higher education and supports the full legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use as well as declassification of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug. She believes that homelessness should be tackled by providing housing to those in need in a way similar to Utah’s successful chronic homelessness program. She supports providing universal free school lunches to children. Mann is one of the only candidates in the TX-31 race to repeatedly discuss racial justice issues, from the Hutto detention center injustices to voter suppression and representation of people of color in political campaigns. She was the target of vandalism in which a noose was placed on one of her campaign signs.
MJ Hegar (D-TX)
Mary Jennings Hegar is an air force veteran, one of Foreign Policy magazine's 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013, and the author of Shoot Like a Girl. She is most well-known for her successful legal challenge to the Pentagon’s ban on women serving in combat zones and receiving the benefits that come with that service. A self-described “progressive Reagan Republican,” she supports progressive ideas such as a living wage, LGBTQ rights, and freedom of religion but offers little in terms of tangible policy details. She supports access to health care and wants to “fix” the Affordable Care Act. She opposes single-payer health care because she does not want it to have the problems of the VA system. She opposes the anti-Muslim travel ban and supports “common sense” gun legislation. She opposes Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and has spoken out against the culture of sexual violence in the military. Hegar was publicly challenged recently by one of her opponents for insinuating she had been exclusively tapped by the DCCC. She voted in the 2016 Republican primary and for Hillary Clinton in the general election.
✅LEFT UP TO US ENDORSES Erin Zwiener (D-TX)
A strong proponent of health care, voting rights, civil rights, and reproductive rights, Zwiener believes that Texas needs to restore funding for schools, expand Medicaid, protect LGBTQ rights, and reform campaign financing. Zwiener was recently featured on the cover of Time Magazine as part of the “Pink Wave,” a record number of first-time female candidates who say they were inspired to run for office following the election of Donald Trump and the 2017 Women’s March. She opposes gerrymandering and SB4 and supports legalizing and regulating marijuana. Formally educated in natural resource conservation, Zwiener supports renewable energy development and protections for Texas’s groundwater and streams. Last year, she helped organize a mock town hall to seek an audience with the absent Roger Williams, and she was a lead organizer of last December’s demonstration at the Texas Capitol encouraging Electoral College voters to "follow their consciences." Zwiener is also well-known for being a three-time winner on Jeopardy, a children’s author, and a member of the Long Riders Guild, a group that recognizes people who have ridden more than a thousand miles on a horse or mule.
Rebecca Bell-Metereau (D-TX)
Bell-Metereau is running for State Representative to stop what she sees as a growing movement of right-wing extremists. A professor of English and Film for 30 years at Texas State University San Marcos, Rebecca's first campaigns for public office were to unseat Republican Ken Mercer on the State Board of Education. She ran in 2010, 2012, and 2016 and got closer each time but came up short in the 13-county SBOE jurisdiction that is heavily gerrymandered by the Texas GOP. Her platform centers on improving public schools, creating good jobs, providing better access to health care, and protecting the environment. She is endorsed by the Austin Central Labor Council AFL-CIO. She touts her volunteer work on the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission and her environmental activism, including especially helping bring recycling to San Marcos. In a recent interview with the Texas State University Star, she further explains why she entered the race.
✅LEFT UP TO US ENDORSES Jose "Chito" Vela (D-TX)
Chito Vela is an immigration defense and criminal defense attorney who has served as chair of the Workers Defense Project, president of Blanton Elementary PTA, and General Counsel in the office of Democratic State House Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., HD33, in addition to other roles in public service. Vela is running on a staunchly progressive platform that supports a $15/hour statewide minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, marijuana legalization, and increased state spending on public education. Vela is the only candidate to have taken a public pledge, posted on his website and his campaign facebook page, not to accept government contracts, government-related consulting contracts, or to otherwise perform lobbying services while in office. Vela is also endorsed by many other progressive organizations, including Our Revolution Central Texas, Austin Tejano Democrats, Austin Young Democrats, Stonewall Democrats of Austin.
Sheryl Cole (D-TX)
Cole is an attorney, realtor, CPA, and lobbyist who has previously served on the Austin City Council, including time as Mayor Pro Tempore. According to her website, her public life began on her local PTA and in organizing community support as one of the tri-chairs of the AISD Bond Committee in 2004. Cole’s track record includes the Waller Creek Redevelopment Project and proposing a resolution to make Austin the first city in Texas to support marriage equality. It also includes repeated attempts to let lobbyists help rewrite the City’s Land Use and Development Code. Cole came under fire during the course of the HD-46 race for campaign contributions and public endorsements to known Republicans against Democrats in 2016. Cole’s platform emphasizes education, healthcare, and civil rights. Her Facebook page can be found here, and her full list of supporters here.
✅LEFT UP TO US ENDORSES Elaina Fowler (D-TX)
Fowler serves as State Director of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) State Retirees Council. Before working at AFSCME, Fowler was chief of staff for Democratic state representative Helen Giddings and worked for then-Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole as a policy aide. Fowler supports changing public school recapture and finding a way to increase teacher pay that does not result in a reduction of student funding. She has called for a path to Open Space Exemption so property owners can maintain their lands’ natural condition and if elected hopes to address pay gaps across gender and ethnicity pay. In announcing its endorsement of Fowler, the Austin Chronicle praised her ability to move the ball forward by finding areas of common ground across the aisle.
Vikki Goodwin (D-TX)
Goodwin is broker and owner of Goodwin & Goodwin Real Estate Inc. and holds a master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She believes that our school finance system is broken and strongly opposes public funding of private schools. Goodwin cares about improving infrastructure, including, roads and mass transit, and opposes the state’s efforts to punish cities that enact policies and ordinances the state doesn’t like. She supports the creation of an unbiased redistricting commission to end gerrymandering. After supporting Republican Gerald Daugherty in the race for Travis County Commissioner, Goodwin told the Oak Hill Gazette that she would neither resign nor sign a pledge promising to withhold support for Republicans. Goodwin’s support of Daugherty in 2012 and 2016 earned her criticism and the loss of her seat as precinct chair.
459th District Judge
✅LEFT UP TO US ENDORSES Maya guerra Gamble (D-TX)
Gamble is the Left Up To Us endorsed candidate in this race. She emphasizes her trial experience, her Austin roots, and her desire to “help the most defenseless and needy among us.” Gamble was raised in Austin and has been a licensed attorney in Texas since 1997. She has practiced trial law as a solo practitioner representing children and parents in Child Protective Services cases since January 2011. After graduating from Austin High School, Gamble earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from Yale in 1992 and graduated from Yale Law School in 1996. She has served several years on the Texas Supreme Court Standing Commission on Children as well as the Travis County Child Welfare Board. Gamble’s full list of endorsements and supporters can be found here. Gamble has personally knocked on over 2,500 doors in her neighborhood canvassing efforts.
Aurora Martinez-Jones (D-TX)
Martinez-Jones emphasizes her judicial experience, her diversity, and her involvement in the community. The Travis County Council of Judges appointed her to serve as an Associate Judge for Civil Courts, a position she has held for about three years. She presides over child welfare dockets including Child Protective Services cases. Before being appointed to the bench, Martinez-Jones practiced law as a solo practitioner for seven years. Since her appointment to the bench, she has joined and participated in several community organizations focused on women and children. She graduated from UT-Austin with a B.A. in Government in 2004 and earned her law degree from UT-Austin in 2007. While attending UT, Martinez-Jones founded a pre-law organization: Minority Women Pursuing Law. The group still exists, and Martinez-Jones remains active in the organization. Her list of endorsements and supporters can be seen here.