AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The issues of homelessness and affordable housing have been hot topics here in Austin the past couple of months, and one local candidate, Democratic-Socialist Heidi Sloan, is looking to tackle these issues in Congress.
Sloan, who is running for Congress in District 25, is a former public school teacher who was first inspired to become politically active after working as a farmer at Community First! Village, a housing community developed by Mobile Loaves and Fishes, with the goal of providing affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community to men and women working their way out of chronic homelessness.
“It is heart heavy work,” says Sloan. “And after a while, I realized that either I needed to go upstream and start addressing the issues that cause homelessness, or I probably needed to take a step back to protect myself from the grief that was just filling me up every day. And so I did the first one. I doubled down and I started community organizing.”
However, organizing at the local level is not always so easy. There are many challenges. Challenges, Sloan says, that actually prompted her to run for Congress.
“I see at the federal level, how amendments like the Faircloth amendment and other laws that prevent us in investing in public housing have really limited what we can do at the state and the local levels. And so Congress is the opportunity to affect housing change across this country,” Sloan said.
In addition to housing, Sloan says she would like to see Congress make more efforts to address climate change, beginning with passing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Resolution.
“It’s not a mandate. It doesn’t say we’re going to do X, Y and Z on this timeline. It says that we acknowledge that climate change is real, that we have a limited amount of time to do something about it. And further and importantly, that addressing climate change on the backs of poor and working class people is not going to work in a practical way.”
Sloan is also a supporter of single-payer, universal healthcare, and in particular, the Medicare for All Act of 2019. “Medicare for All is politically viable. It’s also very practical. It will across the board save us money in the United States. And it will save families money as well,” Sloan says.
Next month, Sloan is set to run against Julie Oliver for the Democratic nomination. Oliver, who was the Democratic nominee in 2018, previously lost to the incumbent, Republican Representative Roger Williams, by 8.9 percentage points.
Williams, who was first elected to office in 2012, currently sits on the Committee of Financial Services in the House, where he made headlines in 2019 for asking the CEOs of seven of America’s largest banks if they identify as ‘socialists.’ He is also a second-generation auto-dealer and the chairman of Roger Williams Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM SRT in Weatherford, Texas.
Sloan was quick to answer when asked if she thought being a Democratic-Socialist might hurt her chances of gaining support in a district currently represented by Williams.
“Roger Williams is a fascinating character. One of the wealthiest members of Congress, a person who inherited some car dealerships up in Fort Worth and Weatherford, Texas, and likes to say to folks that Democratic Socialists want everything just handed to them for free,” Sloan said.
Sloan, who has now been working as a farmer at Community First! Village for seven years, drew a sharp contrast between her experience and Williams. “I have worked since I was 15 years old versus someone who truly was handed a lot at the beginning of his life.”
According to Sloan, however, it is not the ‘label’ of being a Democratic-Socialist that defines her or her campaign.
She says, “We need you standing shoulder to shoulder with your neighbor, showing up for the fights that affect our lives every single day. For the politics that follows us home… to our schools and our jobs and our health care and… mandates how we interact with the environment… we are asking people to show up for themselves first and foremost.”
“I don’t care if they ever call themselves a democratic socialist or not. I want them to know that their voice matters, that they have power, and the best thing we can do is use our power collectively together.”