Joseph Kopser trying to turn a historically red congressional seat blue

Chad Lyle

Without UT’s impact on his life, Joseph Kopser said his campaign for Congress would look very different.

The Iraq War veteran, who is a Democrat competing against Republican nominee Chip Roy for the U.S. House District 21 seat, can trace several milestones in his life back to UT.

“You cannot tell my story of running for office without the University of Texas being central to that entire story,” Kopser said. “It began with the Army giving me an opportunity to serve as the professor of military science, leading the department for two years from 2011 to 2013, and it was there that I realized so many of things simultaneously that I talk about on the campaign trail.”

During his time as the chair of UT’s Army ROTC program, Kopser also founded the business RideScout, an app for comparing transportation options, which he eventually sold to a subsidiary of Daimler, the company behind Mercedes-Benz vehicles. He said starting the business opened his eyes to issues like the future of the United States workforce.

“We have got to make sure that higher education is aligned with the marketplace so that graduates … (can) support themselves and be able to pay off student loans, pay off debt, buy a home, get a car and be a part of the American dream,” Kopser said. “I saw (the need) as I was building my company, and the need to find a talented workforce to be able to do it. And where did I find all of our first employees? The University of Texas.”

Kopser said one of his most profound memories at UT was presenting the American flag to Edith Royal at the funeral for her husband, Darrell K Royal, in 2012.

“Because he was in the Army, after World War II, (Royal) was entitled to military honors at his funeral,” Kopser said. “I was the commanding officer of that detail, and I got to go to a knee in front of Mrs. Royal at the Frank Erwin Center in front of 5,000 people and present her with the flag on behalf of a grateful nation.”

U.S. House District 21 has been represented by Republican Lamar Smith since 1986, which College Republicans at Texas president Taylor Frontera said is an indicator of the district’s
conservative values.

“District 21 has remained a Republican seat for many years due to the Republican platform of candidates reflecting the values of every Texan, and specifically the sentiments of District 21 constituents,” international relations senior Frontera said in an email. “Chip Roy’s biggest strength is being the candidate that supports true Texas values.”

But Jacob Springer, founder of UT’s Students for Kopser organization and a field organizer for the campaign, said Kopser is capable of winning because he can appeal to District 21’s many politically moderate voters.

“(In the primary) he definitely wasn’t the most liberal candidate,” said Springer, a government and political communications sophomore. “Yes, in Austin and Travis County it is very liberal, but this district extends into the Hill Country and down into San Antonio. It has a lot of conservatives, a lot of independents (and) a lot of non-engaged voters. He appeals to them, because he will actually work in their interests.”

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of profiles on Texas candidates running in November’s elections.