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In bid for Texas Democratic Party chair, Kim Olson says rural vote is key for Democrats

Olson says the party must focus on rural education, health care and economic opportunities.

DALLAS — The last time Democrats won statewide office in Texas, the Dallas Cowboys were winning Super Bowls. Needless to say, it’s been quite a while -- 1994 specifically. And that’s one of the reasons the race for Texas Democratic Party Chair is being close watched.

Kim Olson was the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner in 2018, but lost to Republican Sid Miller.  

Olson says that experience, even if she didn’t win, will help her as party chair because she learned two things: how to run on a statewide platform and about the holes in the party’s infrastructure she says needs to be fixed.

“It’s my belief that if you really want to win at the statewide, you have to have strong foundations for these candidates that run statewide to stand on and build their campaigns. And that comes at the local level,” Olson said on this week’s Inside Texas Politics.

Olson says two of the keys for the party to win statewide office is to ensure strong county parties at that local level to help motivate Democratic voters and better messaging that resonates with regular folks. 

Watch the segment below:

Olson is a retired military officer after serving in the Air Force for 25 years and reaching the rank of colonel. In addition to her bid for agriculture commissioner, she also ran unsuccessfully for Texas’ 24th Congressional District, losing in a primary runoff in July 2020.

If Democrats are to win their first statewide office in nearly three decades, winning the rural vote will be critical. And Olson says the party must focus on rural education, health care and economic opportunities.

She points specifically to the large number of rural hospitals closing since 2010, according to the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH).

“Twenty-six hospitals have closed across rural Texas. Why? Because we didn’t want to expand Medicaid or Medicare,” said Olson. “That means people drive for hours to get to a hospital. And that’s why rural counties die is because young families won’t move there unless they have access to good education, health care and decent jobs.”

The chair of the Texas Democratic Party will be determined by delegates at the party’s biennial convention July 11-14 in Dallas.

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