Julie Gobble: Running to govern through conversation
On August 31st, 2019, TX-HD6 State Representative Matt Schaefer posted a thread of tweets in response to the call for gun reform in Texas, following the mass shooting on August 3rd at an El Paso WalMart that left 22 dead and 24 others injured. In it, he wrote, “I say NO to ‘red flag’ pre-crime laws. NO to universal background checks. NO to bans on AR-15s, or high capacity magazines. NO to mandatory gun buy-backs...YES to your God-given, constitutionally protected rights. YES to God, and NO to more government intrusions.” The tweets received national attention, and spurred Julie Gobble, a 24-year-old UT Tyler political science senior, to run for his seat.
Julie was born in Woodland Park, Colorado, as the youngest of ten siblings. After moving to various places, following her parents' divorce, her family relocated to Alba, Texas where she stayed until she left home at age seventeen. Her father's alt-right view dismissed Julie's potential to aspire for any role outside the traditional gender norms. When her mother remarried to her step-father, he continued to oppress Julie's potential under the same mindset. It was the close-mindedness of her family and community that gave way to her inquisitive and rebellious nature, allowing her to think critically about every viewpoint and make decisions for herself. Despite the rhetoric at home and from her school teachers, she recalls her first political role model being former President Barack Obama. At such a young age, Julie recognized then-Senator Obama’s calm demeanor and the way he brought people together, hoping he would win his presidential election.
Fast forward to 2016, Julie was shocked and dismayed at the political climate the nation was entering with the divisive and harmful narratives swirling the media and defining the campaign. It was then that she decided to return to school, enrolled at the University of Texas at Tyler, declared a political science major, and worked in insurance to support herself.
Julie has already faced significant trials in her campaign being a young woman and having never held public office before. Donors within her party are skeptical to give to her campaign; many in the region’s political scene don’t take her seriously. But with her experience as the communications coordinator for the Boy Scouts of America East Texas Area Council and former volunteer on the last campaign to unseat Representative Shaefer, Neal Katz for Texas, Julie’s knowledge of East Texas, resourcefulness, professionalism, and educational experience are more than enough to run a successful campaign. After deciding to run, she reached out to community leaders and district residents to figure out what East Texas needs in a state representative. A few Google searches later and she had a P.O Box, a bank account, a treasurer, and an uphill battle against one of the most conservative and establishment-backed representatives in the state legislature.
East Texas is a special, unique region in the state. It’s characterized by big oil and gas, old money, beautiful pine trees, world-class roses, historic downtown districts, small towns, and wide-open spaces. It’s also known for being the buckle of the Bible Belt, staunchly Republican, and generally unwelcoming to those who don’t fit a traditional mold. With that in mind, Julie made it a point to base her decision to run off the simple need for conversations. East Texas is a region in need of dramatic change yet the current leadership has not brought that. The region has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the state; Tyler ISD is 70% below the poverty level; Smith County has the highest suicide rate among all other Texas counties; and the region also ranks as one of the lowest in residents with medical insurance. East Texas is home to second-amendment sanctuary cities in a time when the 2nd leading cause of child deaths is accidental or intentional gun violence. In light of this, Julie felt angry when she saw Shaefer’s absolute refusal to discuss creating safer communities for TX-HD6 residents that respect and coexist with the right to bear arms. In her view, gun violence, healthcare, and public education are bipartisan issues of safety and quality of life. She wants to simply have the discussions about these topics and find mutually beneficial solutions for TX-HD6 residents on both sides of the aisle. She believes Schaefer’s tweets are exhibit A of his unwillingness to do just that.
With the love of East Texas in her heart and empathetic determination in her mind, Julie sets out to be the first woman to ever hold the seat for TX-HD6 in the Texas House of Representatives. Julie’s fiancé, Cody, and her supporters give her hope that, if nothing else, at least she will have inspired other young people to challenge the status quo, hold leaders accountable, and bring new leadership where a need is present. Julie hopes her campaign will change how East Texas approaches their legislator and raise their expectations for future representatives.
Her symbolic campaign marks the beginning of a new era in East Texas politics. Julie is a young, female, moderate Democrat running a campaign with consistent, personal social media messaging and vulnerable, genuine discussions. Schaefer is an entrenched, establishment Republican who has done nothing but show refusal to compromise, contempt for his colleagues on the other side of the isle, and loyalty to his big money interests over his constituents. In challenging him for his seat, Julie makes history, empowers the disenfranchised to claim their political power, and helps alter the trajectory of women in East Texas politics forever.