Prominent Texas Democrat Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee are facing young, progressive challengers this election cycle, marking the first time Green has faced a Democrat challenger in his Houston district.
Green has represented Texas’s 9th Congressional District since 2005 — a run that has remained unopposed by fellow Democrats, until now. Melissa Wilson, who runs her insurance and real estate business, is challenging Green this election cycle.
“No one has even challenged him,” Wilson, 36, said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “I am not going to be bullied out of challenging him. If I don’t step up, then who is going to?”
Wilson is challenging Green, who skyrocketed into the national spotlight in recent months for his repeated calls to impeach President Trump, because the party needs “new forward-thinking members of Congress” who are “willing to work with other members of Congress to pass regulation that will benefit us all,” according to Wilson’s Facebook page.
The post continues:
I see too many politicians arguing back and forth and not accomplishing the agenda’s [sic] they were elected for,” I feel many have remained complacent, comfortable in their position and confident the people will elect them again. We need people who are constantly thinking about the people and do the job we elect them to do!
While it is not the first time Jackson Lee, who represents Texas’s 18th Congressional District, has faced a primary opposition, one of her challengers, Stevens Orozco, feels the same way.
“We’re putting these folks on notice and making them defend their careers,” Orozco, 33, said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
He is channeling much of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) platform, embracing her model of pushing for far-left ideas such as the implementation of Medicare for All and Green New deal while also using Jackson Lee’s decades-long congressional career as a negative.
Per the Chronicle:
His campaign stresses that Jackson Lee has been in Congress since 1994, when he was in elementary school.
“She’s been there long enough,” Orozco, a school teacher, said of Jackson Lee, as he talked with Heights resident and Democratic voter Ralph Ellis.
Democrat Jerry Ford, 60, a retired firefighter and another Jackson Lee opponent, has been even more blunt.
“She’s a typical career politician,” Ford said.
By contrast, Jackson Lee is touting her years-long career in politics as a positive, highlighting her “work to restore funding for children’s health insurance programs, protect early education programs such as Head Start, and push for increased funding for public education,” the Chronicle reports.
“It’s indicative of being a vocal member of Congress,” Jackson Lee said of her challengers. “It’s easy to draw individuals to run against you.”
“You can do a great job and still get an opponent,” Green remarked. “The system allows for that. I respect the system. People are allowed to run regardless of how well you are doing.”
Both Green and Jackson Lee have been strong advocates for impeaching Trump. Green told C-SPAN in December that there is “no limit” to the number of times the House and Senate can attempt to remove the president, although he contends his career is defined by more than just pushing for the president’s removal.
“I’m involved and engaged,” he said, according to the Texas paper. “I run every day. I don’t run just on election day.”
Jackson Lee, who has seemed to find solace in the fact that Trump will “always” have impeachment on his legacy, has led the charge on the discussion of issuing reparations to descendants of slaves, introducing a bill, H.R. 40, titled, “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.”
She told MSNBC last August that a discussion on reparations is needed, in part, due to the “attitude of our Commander-in-Chief.”
Some, such as University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus, suggest the rise of primary challengers for “safe” Democrat incumbents signals a bigger shift within the Democrat party.
“There is a youth moment in the Democratic Party that is coming sooner than a lot of incumbents recognize,” Rottinghaus said.