Texas Congressional District 25 incumbent Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, will face off against Austin healthcare professional and attorney Julie Oliver, D-Austin, in the Nov. 6 midterm election.
Williams, who has represented the nine-county district since it was formed in 2012, ran unopposed for the GOP nomination in the race while Oliver won a May 22 runoff for the race over Democrat Chris Perri, of Austin.
Oliver was one of five Democrats who sparred in the March 6 primary and broke through with a primary message of improving the Texas healthcare system.
Williams has far outpaced Oliver in campaign fundraising in the heavy-red, rural district that runs from west Austin up to Glen Rose, south of Fort Worth.
With extreme drought conditions continuing to grip the state of Texas, how will you as a federal representative work to secure greater funding and methods for catching and saving rainwater for future drinking water supply?
Oliver: Ranchers and farmers are having to downsize as nearly half of Texas faces an intense drought, which is only being made worse by this administration’s trade wars. I’ve crafted a full economic infrastructure and water preservation action plan to ensure that clean water is widely available by improving quality, encouraging efficiency, and promoting sustainability. My commitments include: Expanding funding for programs like the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to build wastewater treatment plants and better pipes; funding water efficiency and quality programs; and anti-pollution projects. Protecting the water supply by expanding funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation program to promote aquifer recharge and water recycling and promote drought prevention, reduction, and mitigation.
Williams: The House recently passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is legislation that authorizes at least $9 billion for Army Corps of Engineers civil-works projects and Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water and sewer-overflow control programs. While the Army Corps’ biggest goals are flood mitigation and ecosystem restoration, resources would also go towards significant infrastructure projects that will work to serve each state’s individual needs, such as addressing extreme drought conditions.
In recent years, the Department of Veterans Affairs established a national registry for veterans and service members exposed to “burn pits” in theaters of war. Yet, researchers say it will take years to investigate a connection between the toxins burned and those who have died or are suffering long-term serious health problem. What do you propose doing to close the gap between documented health ailments and medical help?
Here is some background on the subject:
Oliver: My dad’s a veteran, and I know that veterans don’t stop serving when they come home. I’m very grateful for the advocacy and leadership of the veterans who testified about their health problems stemming from haphazard burning in Iraq. We have to act urgently to care for those who have been exposed to burn pits, and we have to stop this from happening going forward. What we don’t need right now is lip service — we need action, and real oversight. I have 15 years of experience in healthcare finance and am committed to addressing America’s healthcare crisis broadly, and especially as it pertains to veterans and the ability for veterans to get their disability claims met in a more timely fashion.
Williams: Our veterans sacrificed a great deal for this nation, and unfortunately, sometimes our warfighters return with serious medical conditions as a result of exposure to toxins. Just recently, Congress passed a spending package that included legislation regarding burn pits; the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act. This will provide funding and resources towards researching and treating the negative health impacts of exposure to burn pits. It is my hope that these funds can assist the VA with their medical research so that we can best provide for our veterans that may have been affected.
The Killeen area has a large population of veterans who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs for health care coverage and other benefits. In recent years, long backlogs at the VA have prevented some veterans from receiving the coverage they need. How will you work to decrease the backlog at the VA and ensure that certain veterans receive the benefits and coverage they have earned?
Oliver: Ensuring that veterans can get their disability claims met in a more timely fashion and expanding services and facilities at the VA has been a top campaign priority since day one. I’m concerned that the president has allowed three billionaire, dues-paying Mar-a-Lago member friends with no military experience to have any say in how the VA operates. We can’t allow the VA to be privatized, and I’ll fight any attempt to do so. Veterans deserve accountability and transparency in how decisions at the VA are being made. Those decisions impact the care and resources that they’ve earned. When elected, I’ll conduct an annual survey, hold regular veterans town halls, and use the ideas we receive to improve the VA.
Williams: As the representative for a veteran-proud community, the wellbeing of our nation’s veterans is a top priority of mine. Recently, in our district, Dell Medical School partnered with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (CTVHCS) to provide access to care for local veterans. This partnership will promote innovative care by giving vets access to high-quality treatment by world-class doctors and medical professionals. In order to continue effectively decreasing wait times and allowing for more options for our veterans, we need more healthcare experts and less bureaucrats involved in the VA.
What measures do you support to ensure your constituents have access to affordable health care? Do you support continuing or strengthening the Affordable Care Act, or do you believe there is a more effective way to ensure that coverage?
Oliver: Every American should have high-quality healthcare, be able to see a doctor, and be able to afford prescriptions — no matter if they’re rich or poor, young or old, or have pre-existing conditions or not. We have to safeguard protections for the 325,000 of our fellow Texans in District 25 with pre-existing conditions, introduce a public option to bring everyone’s premiums down, and move to guaranteed, universal healthcare so that every single person in this country can get the care they need. The public option — a new Medicare plan on the federal and state exchanges — and puts consumers and business owners in the driver’s seat.
Williams: I’ve been fighting to repeal the unconstitutional Affordable Care Act since the day I was elected to Congress. Last year, I voted in favor of the American Health Care Act that would begin to undo the damage that has been caused by Obamacare. I want to restore competition, bring down costs, and increase options for those in our district, and around the country — the government should never force Americans to buy products they do not want. Additionally, I am proud to have voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last December that eliminated the individual mandate penalty for not having health insurance starting in 2019.
Killeen and surrounding cities have a crucial economic connection to a fully staffed Fort Hood. In recent years, Fort Hood has lost some of its fighting force. How will you fight to ensure Fort Hood retains or increases its troop force in the coming years?
Oliver: Fort Hood generates tremendous value to Killeen. The leadership, the soldiers and families all bring pride and distinction to this community, and I would be honored to serve and represent this community in Congress. But a shrinking percentage of the public has any relationship to the military since the draft ended. We’ve been engaged in seventeen years of continuous war. And neither Congress nor many Americans seem to care, or, painfully, to notice. As the economy stays strong and we continue to invest in good-paying jobs right here in Texas, smart, honest, ethical military recruiting is still essential. We’re facing an alarming lack of mental fitness among military-aged Americans — that’s due to diminishing access to quality education.
Williams: In addition to working hard to bring the latest Security Force Assistance Brigades to Fort Hood and protecting First Army Division West, I’ve sent letters to secure a new Army Brigade Combat Team. I visited our troops in Iraq and Kuwait, where I met with Lt. Gen. Funk and III Corps to listen to the needs for their soldiers and learn how we can best take care of our warfighters and their families at home. I fought hard to remove our military from the disastrous sequester and put them on an operational budget for the first time in nearly a decade.