Dr. Christine Mann, a Cedar Park family physician and a longtime Democratic activist with a record of fighting for women's rights, kicked off her congressional campaign for Texas’s 31st Congressional District Saturday, June 22, at Lark & Owl Booksellers in Georgetown.
Speaking to a crowd of about 50 people, Mann said she is running to “repeal and replace” Republican incumbent John Rice Carter of Round Rock, a former Williamson County Judge who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002.
During her speech, Mann had the crowd shouting their responses in unison while laying out why she is running.
“I’ve had many patients say ‘Why? Why would you do this? Why would you put this time and energy in? Why would want to go into Washington, into that swamp and that quagmire?’ And I ask them, ‘Are there still children in cages on the border?’” Mann said.
“Yes!” shouted members of the crowd.
“Are there still LGBTQIA Americans still being denied their basic rights?” Mann asked.
“Yeah!” the crowd shouted.
“Are women still having to fight for equal pay and access to the medical care that they need?” Mann asked.
“Yes!” the crowd shouted.
“As long as those things are still happening, I am fighting,” Mann said.
Mann ran in the 2018 Democratic primary and lost in the runoff election to Mary Jennings "M.J." Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot who lost to Carter in the general elections by 2.9 percent, or 8,318 votes. Hegar won the vote in Williamson County.
The election results were the closest race of Carter’s 17-year congressional career, and he is one of five House Republicans in Texas targeted by the national Democratic Party as possible districts to flip.
Hegar announced in April her campaign to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. John Cornyn for the U.S. Senate seat.
Mann said Carter might think he can sigh in relief now that Hegar is no longer running against him, but he would be dramatically underestimated those supporters who are still looking to flip the district.
She also argued that national Republicans targeting her 500 days before the election means they recognize her as a threat and the district as vulnerable.
When asked about what she needs to accomplish in terms of fundraising to run a viable campaign, Mann said they believe they need to raise at least $500,000 for the primary and approximately $5 million for the general election.
She urged her supporters at the event to donate early because she will soon file her first Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance report, which will be posted in July and demonstrate to national Democratic organizations her viability in the race.
In addition, Meg Walsh of Round Rock, who ran for Texas Senate District 5 in the 2018 elections and lost to Republican incumbent Sen. Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, spoke in support of Mann’s campaign and pledged to match up to $1,000 for all donations made at the campaign kickoff.
Similarly, Kent Lester, a retired Army officer who also ran for the Democratic nomination to run against Carter in the 2018 election, and his wife Brigid, urged attendees to support Mann and official donated a $1,000 check at the event.
Other speakers in support of Mann at the event included Taylor City Council member Gerald Anderson and 18-year-old immigration reform activist Katana Riley, who recently graduated from Cedar Park High School.
Mann said she will draw from her decades of experience as physician while making health care policy the focus of her campaign.
During the rally, she shared a story with the crowd about a patient with Multiple Sclerosis who has to use a wheelchair and relies on her husband to help her with many basic functions. Pausing to wipe a tear from her eye, she told the crowd that the patient’s husband had recently lost his job.
“You can imagine the position that puts them in with the health care that she needs,” Mann said. “So, what I am not going to do is I am not going to go back to my office the next time I see (her) and tell her I didn’t do every single thing I could do to make sure she receives the care she needs.”
In the interview, she said she feels uniquely qualified to tackle these issues.
“People are really tired of losing their homes, dying or not being able to afford their medications. And frankly, after being in health care for now 30 years, I’m tired of it too,” Mann said.
“I’ve been fighting on behalf of my patients against pharmaceutical companies and drug companies for the entirety of my career," she said. "I have the skills to be able to walk in on day one and be able to make a change … I know the system. I’ve been in the system. I know what to do.”
On policy positions, she advocates for a single-payer health care system.
“I don’t like we have this boogeyman term that people get nervous about with Medicare-For-All. Universal coverage saves money, saves lives and creates jobs. People can call it whatever they want to – I’m going to sign onto any legislation that leads to universal health care for every American citizen,” Mann said.
On immigration and the border, she said a real solution requires thoughtful policy and a multi-pronged approach because “nothing is black and white on this issue,” which she argues is often lost in debates over big ideas like President Trump’s proposed border wall.
She said she supports some increase in the number of border agents but argued they must be applied “in a way that doesn’t harm the lives of people who are there,” citing border agents arresting people for providing water to people trying to cross the border as a problematic example. She also argued that portions of the border are better served by options other than “boots on the ground,” such as increased electronic or drone surveillance on certain areas.
She said the claim that Democrats want open borders is “simply false” and people to need to recognize “immigration is the foundation of our country, that immigrants contribute to our economy and bring diversity into our nation. They are by far a net benefit.”
“Yes, we have to have border security. We cannot have open borders. Yes, people have to make sure people have a pathway to citizenship once they are here. We cannot continue to put people into detention centers when they are seeking asylum…that is inhumane.,” Mann said. “You can’t just say we need more agents…You need policies that will make the boots on the ground more effective.”
She argued the solution also requires improving the system for those who wish to come to the country, whether it is streamlining the immigration process to addressing the “economic despair” that drives migrants to seek to come to the U.S.
She argued she also has appeal across party lines because she supports common-sense ideas and proposals that are not beholden to partisan politics.
“These divisions that we have, that an idea is purely a Red idea or a Blue idea, is completely false...These are good ideas, ideas that I’m going to champion that save lives, help people and stimulate the economy and create jobs,” Mann said.
One example she gave was her support for tuition-free college, which she argues stimulates the economy because student debt depresses people’s home buying and family creation options. Other piece of potential legislation she supports includes her desire to see the Civil Rights Act “go back to where it actually protected people,” strengthening voting rights and facing equity issues throughout the country.