The Voter Protection Project, a progressive super PAC focused on expanding access to voting and committed to “ending partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression,” has announced that it will be spending $125,000 in the Democratic runoff for Texas’ 24th Congressional District.
Funds will be used on negative mail advertisements targeted at Kim Olson, a retired Air Force colonel who received 40 percent of the vote in the March 3 primary.
Mailers will be aimed at the most likely Democratic voters.
The Texan spoke with Matt Liebman, president of the Voter Protection Project.
“We’re a national voting rights group formed in 2019 to fight back against Republican attempts at voter suppression [and to elect] Democratic candidates who are strong advocates for voter equality and expanding access to the ballot,” said Liebman, saying that Candace Valenzuela is such a candidate.
The Voter Protection Project has thrown its full support behind Valenzuela, a Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District Board of Trustees member who placed second in the primary with 30 percent of the vote.
“There’s a clear contrast between Candace Valenzuela and what she’s fighting for — for a more transparent and equitable government — as opposed to her opponent, Kim Olson, who doesn’t fight for any of those values or stand for the things that the Democratic Party is fighting for,” said Liebman.
His criticisms of Olson included the allegations of having used her position in the military to “steer three million dollars worth of military contracts to a private security firm that she went on to operate.”
One mailer will also criticize Olson for comments she reportedly made in 2008 while working as an administrator with Dallas ISD amidst financial difficulties for the school district.
“Most educators don’t understand leadership because that’s really not what is practiced,” she said, according to D Magazine. “Just because you’ve been the head of a classroom or a school doesn’t mean you have leadership.”
In the article, Olson’s comments were framed in reference to her participation in a training program for superintendents from a foundation that “encourage[d] districts to search for talent from a wide spectrum of disciplines, including the military.”
In contrast, Liebman said that Valenzuela “is the stellar candidate, someone with a background that you can just see being an incredible advocate for really giving a voice to people.”
“I think Candace is someone who gets it,” said Liebman. “Her background shows it. Growing up homeless, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, going through hard times later to come back to serve her community. We just couldn’t think of a better candidate to support.”
In addition to their outside involvement in the campaign, the Voter Protection Project has maximized their direct donation to Valenzuela’s campaign.
Aside from Valenzuela, the group has also endorsed other Texas Democrats, including MJ Hegar (U.S. Senate), Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23), Pritesh Gandhi (TX-10), and Sima Ladjevardian (TX-02), as well as incumbent Reps. Colin Allred (D-TX-32) and Marc Veasey (D-TX-33).
The Voter Protection Project has also endorsed Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), and spent $250,000 to support him in the primary race against his progressive challenger, Jessica Cisneros, shortly after the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC BOLD PAC) gave $250,000 to the group.
In May, CHC BOLD PAC contributed again with an additional $125,000.
“It’s a shame that our run-off opponent and her dark money DC allies are resorting to mudslinging and misinforming voters,” said Rachel Perry, the campaign manager for Olson. “Texas voters will decide this race, not DC. And from day one — with their votes, donations, and grassroots enthusiasm — they’ve made it abundantly clear that that candidate is Kim Olson.”
“Col. Olson won a 7-way primary by 11 points–taking the district’s two largest counties, and two-thirds of the total precincts. Additionally, we won 60% of the total precincts in the School Board District represented by our run-off opponent,” said Perry. “True to Colonel Olson’s leadership style, she is focused on delivering for the people of TX-24 and making sure this district is strong and unified. Now more than ever Texans are looking for positive and inspirational leadership, not politics as usual.”
The winner of the Democratic runoff on July 14 will face former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne in the general election.
With the seat open after Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24) announced his retirement last year, Van Duyne secured the GOP nomination outright in the March primary with 64 percent of the vote.
In 2018, Marchant received 50.1 percent of the vote, ahead of his Democratic opponent by 3.1 points.
Update: This article was updated to include comments from Kim Olson’s campaign.
Update: This article was updated to clarify that the Voter Protection Project has endorsed Cuellar.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.