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Political Note #290   Kim Olson TX CD 24

2020                              General Election

Another veteran running for Congress.  Another female veteran running for Congress.  Another female veteran pilot running for Congress.  Kim Olson was a flight squadron leader.  More important, Kim Olson was an important figure in Iraq who got herself into trouble.  Judge for yourself whether that trouble bodes well for the kind of Member of Congress she would be.

In 2003, GHW Bush’s Iraq War was transitioning into a new phase.  Lt. General Jay Garner was appointed Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq. He had prepped for the job by securing the Kurdish areas in the north of Iraq.  You might call him a Proconsul.  In Wikipedia, he is called the successor to Saddam Hussein.  Garner had three deputies, one of whom was a British Major-General.  Kim Olson is universally described as having been Jay Garner’s Number 2.

The Iraq that Jay Garner and his team were called upon to reconstruct was wilder than the Wild West ever was.  Chaotic.  Looting was widespread.  The place was unsafe.  The Department of Defense did not assign the US military to protect Garner and his staff.  They hired eight South Africans to do the job.

Garner began in March, began formally in April, and was replaced in May.  He probably moved too quickly to establish relationships with the various Iraqi factions, including Saddam Hussein’s Baathists.  He may have moved too quickly to prepare a temporary Iraqi government.   He certainly moved too quickly for the Bush Administration in planning a permanent Iraqi government through an election to be held within 90 days of his appointment.  Paul Brenner replaced Jay Garner.  Brenner’s term of office was marked by deBaathification, the further alienation of the Sunni population in Iraq, and no election any time soon.

Garner valued the protection provided by the eight South Africans and was startled to learn that the Defense Department had stopped paying them.  He sought to regularize their role and asked Kim Olson to arrange that.  The route to that arrangement, she believed, was the creation of a US branch of the South African security firm Meteoric.  Getting that done was not so simple.  Getting it done quickly was not simple at all.  Kim Olson set up the firm at her home address.  She set herself up as the firm’s Director. She spent $12,000 of her own money for start-up costs for which she was eventually reimbursed.  And she achieved her goal.

It wasn’t right, of course.  Kim Olson was active duty military.  She had no business setting herself up as head of a military security firm’s subsidiary.  As best I can tell, she took no income from this project.  As best I can tell, she was fulfilling her assignment to regularize the status of the South Africans who had provided security for Garner and staff.

Kim Olson’s behavior was investigated.  She denied and refuted serious charges.  She demonstrated that she had consulted with a Pentagon ethics official and the only money she received was the $12,000 reimbursement.  She avoided a court martial.  She accepted Article 15 charges for offenses which can be resolved through a non-judicial process. She had created the appearance of a conflict of interest.  For that, she was reprimanded and fined $3,500.

She compares herself to Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt – willing to put her career on the line to do something right.   She retired honorably in 2005 as a Colonel.

While sorting out the claim against her, before she retired, she worked with the Air Force’s Inspector General investigating the sexual assault scandal at the US Air Force Academy.  She learned, she says, how the system faulted women – for what they wore, for drinking, for choosing to join the Air Force.  Her role was particularly intense.  She was assigned to a group investigating generals and senior civilians at the Academy.

In civilian life, she helped found and served as CEO and President of Grace After Fire.  Her work at Grace After Fire was a commitment to demonstrate that women Veterans are valuable and can succeed with a support network designed for them. During Kim Olson’s tenure, the organization helped women overcome PTSD, what she called moral injury, and trauma as they transitioned back into civilian life.

She was also involved in schools.  Hired as Human Resources Chief of the Dallas Independent School District, Kim Olson was on the other end of someone’s quick fix.  She was part of ending a school district practice of assigning fake social security numbers to new hires.   The new hires got the fake social security numbers until they got real ones.  Kim Olson explained. “You can’t just arbitrarily issue Social Security numbers….Even if your intention is good, it’s not legal.”

She was a farmer. She and her husband grew fruits (peaches, nectarines) and nuts (pecans). They grew vegetables and kept bees.  They restored native grasslands.  While farming, she had one successful try at elective office and one failed effort. She was elected and served as a trustee of the Weatherford school district.  Her farming gave her credentials to run for Texas Agriculture Secretary.

Kim Olson got 3.8 million votes as the Democratic candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner.  Not enough.  She lost 51-46. The San Antonio Express-News endorsed her as “deeply knowledgeable about the agricultural issues facing Texas…water security, farmland preservation and ensuring [that] healthy (and tasty) foods are served in school cafeterias.”

She did well for a Democrat running state-wide in Texas.  In 2018, Democrats were doing better state-wide than in the past.  Beto O’Rourke, running for the US Senate, got past the 4 million mark, but lost 51-48..

Kim Olson has been impressive in her Congressional campaign.  She does not have it locked up.  If a candidate has a primary, I avoid writing unless I am confident in the primary win.  This primary runoff is not quite automatic.

In the primary, Kim Olson outpolled second place candidate Candace Valenzuela 41-30.  Valenzuela has a lot to make up,  She has some time.   Primary runoffs have been postponed to July 14 because of the coronavirus.  Kim Olson had raised a lot more money —  $1.2 million, almost double what Valenzuela raised. On March 31, Kim Olson still had more money, but not overwhelmingly  — $200,000 to $140,000.

Valenzuela is appealing.  A school board member, a Latina and an African American, she was endorsed by Emily’s List.  She’s been endorsed by progressive politicians: Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Members of Congress — Veronica Escobar, Deb Haaland, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, Katie Porter.  She’s been endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Asian Pacific Congressional Group.  And by the AFL-CIO.

Interestingly, the AFC-CIO also endorsed Kim Olson.  So did the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. So did VoteVets.  So did the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Endorsements from progressive Democrats may not be as useful in TX 24 as they might be elsewhere.  TX 24 is in between Dallas and Fort Worth, suburbs for both cities.  I don’t prefer Kim Olson to Candace Valenzuela.  I am not making the case that Retired Colonel Kim Olson is more electable in the suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth.  I write this Note on behalf of Kim Olson and urge you to support her because I believe she will win the run off and be the Democratic nominee.  She needs resources and support now for the general election.   November is coming surprisingly soon.

We know the Republican nominee for TX 24.  The Republican incumbent decided he had had enough. He may have decided that he could lose in 2020. He did not run for reelection.  Beth Van Duyne is the Republican nominee.  She won her primary outright.  We really want to defeat her.  She is the former Mayor of Irving and currently a Trump appointee.  As mayor she responded to a rumor, more a phantasy than a rumor,  that an area Texas court was following Sharia Law.  She urged the City Council to support a bill in the Texas legislature banning Sharia Law.  The local school board and the local police arrested a 14 year old boy who brought a home-made clock to school.  She defended the arrest of this  aMuslim boy as perfectly reasonable.  School staff and the police thought his package was a bomb.

If you are inclined to get involved in this election, help Kim Olson now.

Below are Congressional seats Democrats are trying to flip from incumbent Republicans.  The ones with asterisks ran in 2018*  In 2018, Democrats flipped 40 Republican seats in the House.  Let’s flip 20 more. 

Arizona 06                        Hiral Tipirneni* to beat incumbent David Schweikert

Arkansas 02.                    Joyce Elliott to beat incumbent French Hill

California 50                     Ammar Campa-Hajjar* to win this now open Rep seat

Florida 16                         Margaret Good to beat incumbent Vern Buchanan

Illinois 13                          Betsy Dirksen Londrigen* to beat incumbent Rodney Davis

Indiana 05                        Christina Hale to win this open Republican seat

Iowa 04                            JD Scholten* to beat incumbent Steve King

Kansas 02                        Michelle De La Isla to beat incumbent Steve Watkins

Michigan 03.                    Hillary Scholten to defeat incumbent Independent Justin Amash and the Republican nominee

Michigan 06                     Jon Hoadley to beat incumbent Fred Upton

Minnesota 01                   Dan Feehan* to beat incumbent Jim Hagedorn

Missouri 02                      Jill Schupp to beat incumbent Ann Wagner

Montana AL                     Kathleen Williams* to win this open Republican seat

New York 02                    Jackie Gordon to win this open Republican seat

New York 21                    Tedra Cobb* to beat incumbent Elise Stefanic

New York 24                    Dana Balter* to beat incumbent John Katko

North Carolina 09.           Cynthia Wallace to beat incumbent Dan Bishop

Ohio 04                            Mike Larsen to beat incumbent Jim Jordan

Pennsylvania 10              Eugene DePasquale to beat incumbent Scott Perry

Texas 02                         Sima Ladjervardian to beat incumbent Dan Crenshaw

Texas 21                         Wendy Davis to beat incumbent Chip Roy

Texas 22                         Sri Preston Kalkuri to win this open Republican seat

Texas 23                          Gina Ortiz Jones* to win this open Republican seat

Texas 24                          Kim Olson to win this open Republican seat

Washington 03               Carolyn Long* to beat incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler