Texas Law alumni compete for student votes in runoff election for US Congress

Chad Lyle

Texas Law School alumnae Chris Perri and Julie Oliver returned to UT Saturday to earn student votes ahead of a runoff election that will determine which one of them will be the Democratic nominee for Congressional District 25 in the midterm elections.

Perri and Oliver participated in a forum jointly hosted by the University Democrats and Texas Law Democrats.

“This is mainly to educate voters on campus,” said co-moderator Shelby Hobohm from the University Democrats, a mechanical engineering and government senior. “Runoffs historically have a much lower turnout … if we want people to turn out we want them to be educated.”

The Democratic nominee for District 25 will be officially determined in an election on May 22, and the winner will face off against Republican incumbent Roger Williams for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

Throughout the forum, Oliver cited her own upbringing as proof of government programs helping Americans succeed.

“At the age of 17, I ran away from home … found myself homeless, then I got pregnant, so I went back home,” Oliver said in her opening remarks. “With the help of my mom, and with the assistance of Medicaid, I gave birth to a very healthy young baby girl. That daughter is now a PhD student at TCU. I put myself through college completely debt free with the help of government programs … and then 23 years ago, I got my acceptance letter to the University of Texas School of Law, one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Perri said his work as a criminal defense attorney is what motivated him to run for office.

“The final straw for me was Jeff Sessions becoming Attorney General,” Perri said. “(Sessions) told his prosecutors you can’t negotiate with defense attorneys to get probation sentences on these drug crimes … you have to sentence people to five or ten years. He did that to fill the private prisons, which had directly donated to the Trump inaugural committee.”

Either candidate will face tough odds in the general election as Williams has won his last three elections with 58 percent of the vote or more.

“The incumbent obviously has an advantage because he’s in office,” said co-moderator Alex Clark, Texas Law Democrats President and law student. “People don’t necessarily know (Perri and Oliver’s) names yet.”