Julie Gobble, the Democratic candidate for District 6 in the Texas House of Representatives, can’t help but get passionate about politics, even if just speaking over the phone. Except it’s not so much the politics that are her concern, she says – it’s the people.
“I’m just so concerned,” Gobble said. “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican, independent or Libertarian. I want you to have health care. I want you to have a roof over your head. I want you to make a living wage. I want our society and our government to reflect the values of everyday working Texans.”
Gobble – a full-time student in the political science program at the University of Texas at Tyler and an internal communications coordinator for the nonprofit World Resources Institute – is challenging Republican incumbent Matt Schaefer in hopes of becoming “part of the positive change” she says is needed here in East Texas.
“I debate ideas and I debate actions,” Gobble said. “I don’t have a personal problem with Matt, and that is in no way why I ran for this seat … (But) time and time again, when Matt had the opportunity to lift up the people of East Texas, rather than passing bills, he oftentimes made people who are already vulnerable more vulnerable.”
Her platform centers largely around health care accessibility, public education and, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic relief – all areas she claims represent an “urgent situation” for all East Texans, and especially for those who are considered vulnerable.
“I have called personally thousands of East Texans in the last couple of months,” Gobble said. “My calls to them usually go something like, ‘Hi, my name is Julie, and I’m calling because I really would love to know what issues are important to you.’ The things that come up, again and again, are uncertainty.”
East Texans are worried, Gobble said, whether they’ll be able to afford a visit to the doctor, or will have the opportunity to see a counselor without breaking the bank.
“When 3.6 million Texans lose their jobs in a matter of nine months and we have a system almost entirely based on employer-based healthcare, that represents a problem,” Gobble said.
Quick to support her claims with statistics, Gobble said the average person in Texas only has about $400 to their name at any given time.
“If you go and have a medical emergency, not only can it set you back a month, but it can bring you to the brink of homelessness,” Gobble said.
“If East Texas were a state, it would be 51st in uninsured per capita,” she continued. “The real-life outcomes of that have been pretty devastating. We have the highest infant mortality, incredibly high rates of maternal mortality and we also have very high rates of suicide. Those are the definitions of loss of life, and oftentimes these are impacting our most vulnerable members of the community.”
She spoke of the lack of mental health resources for those struggling with depression and suicidal ideation.
“A person commits suicide in Smith County every two weeks,” Gobble said. “Those suicides are taking place almost entirely by gun.”
With the global pandemic putting most everyone at greater risk for overall insecurity and instability, whether economically or personally, Gobble said her top priority is to “work across the aisle and with experts in each field to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to provide resources for those who need them.”
She also said she hopes to “truly be a person of the people,” and someone who is willing to advocate for their rights and needs regardless of class, gender, race, sexual orientation and “all of these isms.”
“We have to have a new expectation of the people we send to represent us,” Gobble said. “They cannot just represent themselves and their own beliefs.”
She criticized Schaefer’s ability to work, even within the Republican Party, to enact positive change for the majority.
“These decisions don’t just stay in Austin,” Gobble said. “They don’t just impact his role. They have life-and-death consequences for the people of East Texas. When he chooses special interest or self-interest, people of East Texas literally die.”
If elected, she said she would work to expand Medicaid, lower the amount of tax exemptions offered to “incredibly wealthy organizations,” eliminate the deficit and “finally get sustainable funding for our public schools.”
Regarding guns, she said she hopes to explore “reasonable regulations” that do not infringe upon the Second Amendment rights afforded to all U.S. citizens while ensuring those who possess firearms are “safe, responsible and legal” owners in an effort to mitigate high rates of gun violence.
Over the past several months, Gobble has also made her presence known at countless rallies in the Tyler area and beyond, crying for justice at Black Lives Matter protests, or celebrating the recent name change decision at the former Robert E. Lee and John Tyler high schools.
If elected, she says, that presence will not fade.
“The central role of elected officials is to improve the lives of constituents and to spend the taxpayer dollars (in ways that best benefit the people),” Gobble said. “You cannot even know, or begin to know, how to improve the lives of your constituents if you are not meeting with them on a regular basis, if you are not attending every possible event and being totally integrated in the community … and not just the one that looks like, sounds like and thinks like you do.”
Gobble, the youngest of 10 children, settled on an 11-acre piece of land in East Texas with her family and lots of “goats and chickens and dogs and cats,” nearly 16 years ago. She said her experiences there have shaped her into who she is today – an East Texan, above all else.
“Before I’m a Democrat, before I’m anything, I’m a Texan, and I’m an East Texan,” Gobble said. “My goal is to not be divisive, my goal is to find solutions. I want to make sure East Texans have someone who is fighting for them.”