Meet Mary Street Wilson, Underdog of the 2018 Texas Primaries

In a surprising turn of events, the candidate that raised the least amount of money and had the lower profile won the most votes in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 21.

Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson Illustration/Sunny Sone

In a surprising turn of events, the candidate that raised the least amount of money and had the lower profile won the most votes in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 21.

Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson Illustration/Sunny Sone

Mary Wilson, a former math teacher running for Congressional District 21, raised a measly $40,000 over the last year. She had a handful of profiles in Science magazine, Dame and KUT. In comparison, Joseph Kopser raised about $770,000, received a slew of endorsements and a ton of press coverage. Derrick Crowe, a former Nancy Pelosi staffer, and Elliott McFadden, the former Travis County executive director also raised far more than Wilson and received endorsements from prominent groups.

Still, Wilson is the one headed to a runoff with Kopser. In fact, she received almost 1,000 more votes than Kopser.

Reached just after midnight, Wilson said she was “very excited, very happy” with the results. “Wow,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

So, what gives? It’s hard to know for sure what fueled her surprising performance, but it’s certainly possible that Democrats decided that, given a choice, they wanted to cast their vote for a woman. Wilson agreed that being the sole woman in a four-way race with three men likely played a role.

“It had to,” she said. “I’m not naive enough to think that I didn’t get some default votes.”

But that alone didn’t cinch her over 15,600 votes, she said. She was aided by many volunteers who spent time knocking on doors and making calls. In the early days of campaigning, she said she spent time talking to voters and showed up to every event organized by local Democratic groups. “That just cost the amount of money to put gas in my car,” Wilson said. “I put in all the work. Most of that is up to the candidate. … I worked very hard for this.”  

Wilson said she was looking forward to campaigning ahead of the May 22nd runoff. She said she would take a day or two to process the results of the primary and then begin planning for the runoff. “I’m looking forward to the next phase,” she said.

Do you think free access to journalism like this is important?
The Texas Observer is known for its fiercely independent, uncompromising work — which we are pleased to provide to the public at no charge in this space. That means we rely on the generosity of our readers who believe that this work is important. You can chip in for as little as 99 cents a month. If you believe in this mission, we need your help.


Naveena Sadasivam is a staff writer covering the environment, energy and climate change at Grist. She previously covered environmental issues at the Texas Observer, InsideClimate News and ProPublica. At ProPublica, she was part of a team that reported on the water woes of the West, a project that was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting. She has a degree in chemical engineering and a master’s in environmental and science reporting from New York University and was a 2017 Ida B. Wells fellow at Type Investigations. You can contact her at [email protected] and follow her work on Twitter.


You May Also Like:

Top