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Five Democratic Congressional Hopefuls Compete in Community Forum


The Democratic Primary contest for U.S. Congressional District 21 has motivated five candidates to accept the Kerr County Democrats’ invitation to compete in a forum on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. The structured forum will begin at 6:15 p.m., in the auditorium of the Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) at 125 Lehmann Drive.
All five candidates have been actively campaigning since June 2017. None of the candidates has held public office before, and only two have experience in politics. All of the candidates currently live in Travis County. Bandera, Kerr, Gillespie, Blanco, Real and Kendall are the six rural counties in District 21, which also covers parts of Travis, Hays, Comal and Bexar counties. Incumbent Rep. Lamar Smith, Republican, has served the District for more than 30 years.
Mary Wilson is the only woman in the group. Wilson is the pastor at Church of the Savior in the Austin area. In addition to her work as a social justice advocate, she has taught math for more than 20 years.
Joseph Kopser, the only veteran among the candidates, is a West Point graduate in Aerospace Engineering who served in the U.S. Army for 20 years. Kopser has a master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School and recently sold his award-winning clean energy transportation company called RideScout.
Chris Perri is a criminal defense attorney who received the “Excellence in Public Interest” award from the University of Texas Law Fellowships in 2016. Perri holds both a law degree and a master’s degree in economics.
Elliott McFadden and Derrick Crowe are the two candidates with political experience. McFadden served as the executive director of the Travis County Democratic Party for several years. He has campaigned for progressive causes in Travis County, most notably the successful campaign to invest $65 million in affordable housing. He currently serves as the executive director of Austin B-cycle, a bike share system.
Derrick Crowe has direct knowledge of the position he seeks, having served on the staff of Democrats in Congress, including Charles Stenholm of Abilene. He has owned a small business and led communications and organizing efforts for nonprofits, including his current work for an Austin-based nonprofit addressing family violence and sexual assault and exploitation.
State House candidate Stephanie Ertel will moderate the structured forum in which candidates will have the opportunity to answer questions within time limits. Certain questions will be prepared in advance and others will be based on written submissions from the audience. Candidates will be encouraged to present their positions on major issues and their strategies for winning the general election in November 2018.
There is no charge for the forum, and the public is encouraged to attend and enjoy the lively debate among the five candidates. For more information please contact Rick Ertel, Democratic Party County Chair at ertelr@mac.com.