McDowell was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but moved to Richardson, Texas when she was eight years old. From her childhood, McDowell remembers her brother and father debating politics at the dinner table, heatedly disagreeing on a variety of political ideals. McDowell also recounts times when she would watch political shows on the television. Eventually, McDowell went on to study journalism/public relations at Texas Tech University, where she received her undergraduate education. Although her childhood was riddled with politics, McDowell’s desire to run for office did not come about until 2011, after watching a documentary.
McDowell realized she wanted to run for office after watching the documentary Inside Job by Charles Ferguson. This Oscar-winning documentary dives into the world of financial crises throughout presidential administrations, specifically told through the perspective of the people in the government. McDowell was inspired to run for congress specifically, saying “nobody stood up and made [these problems] stop.” She quickly jumped into action and began planning her political journey.
McDowell had little experience in the political field back in 2015, but she was determined to figure it out as she progressed through the campaign. McDowell prides herself on approaching new experiences in unique and unprecedented ways. She started to reach out to groups of friends, particularly from her church. Then McDowell began canvassing her community, reaching out to constituents who were interested in change for the district. McDowell eventually lost her bid for the seat in the general election. Now she has returned with a new success under her belt; McDowell decided to run a back to back campaign – currently running again for the 2018 election. This time, McDowell swept the Democratic nomination in the primary election against three other opponents.
If elected, McDowell would represent the 24th Congressional District of Texas, maintaining about 780,000 residents. Some of the biggest issues that McDowell hopes to tackle include healthcare, the economy, and protecting the vulnerable. McDowell plans to create an impact on statewide economy policies including equal pay, equitable taxation laws, and installment of a humane minimum wage. Above all, McDowell hopes to focus on protecting the vulnerable populations, including senior citizens, LGBTQ folks, veterans, and immigrants. McDowell recognizes her privileged upbringing and wants to use her experiences to help others.
McDowell describes gender’s role in politics as a pendulum: throughout the majority of history, men have dominated the political field. Now, McDowell says, the pendulum is swinging in favor of women candidates. One day, McDowell hopes the political gender pendulum will find a neutral and balanced resting place. Until then, McDowell tells women running for office to trust in themselves. She says, “as a candidate, you’re not going to know everything. It’s okay! Don’t let that hold you back from running.”
Jan McDowell is currently running for the 24th Congressional District of Texas, with her upcoming election taking place in November.