Editor’s Note: Our coverage of Chrissy Houlahan is part of Running Women, a project following 15 compelling women candidates for U.S. political offices in 2018. Read the latest on her campaign below.
Chrissy Houlahan is a military and business veteran on a mission to flip a U.S. House seat to the Democrats. She says opposition to President Donald Trump’s agenda drove her into the race for a U.S. House seat representing the 6th district of Pennsylvania, which has been held by Republican Rep. Ryan Costello since 2015.
The district is now considered more friendly to the Democrats, after the Pennsylvania Supreme court redrew the district as part of a ruling that found Republican gerrymandering.
Hillary Clinton won the old district in 2016, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named it an initial target to flip in 2018. That means that Houlahan, who ran uncontested in the Democratic primary after an early rival dropped out, will likely receive committee money and support, strengthening her chances. Though a newcomer to politics, her fundraising is already off to a strong start — she amassed $2.1 million as of April — and has been endorsed by fundraising powerhouse Emily’s List.
Related: Emily’s List Aims to Seize Its Moment
Houlahan lives in Devon, Penn., with her husband, Bart, with whom she has two daughters, ages 22 and 24. She was raised by a Holocaust survivor father, who immigrated as a child and ultimately became a captain in the U.S. Navy. Her father’s military career meant the family moved often and, as a result, Houlahan grew up all over the country. She attended Stanford University on an ROTC scholarship, where she earned an engineering degree, and received a masters in technology and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While Houlahan has pursued several career paths since then, service has been a common thread. She served 3 years of active duty in the Air Force reserves and 13 years of inactive duty. She joined Teach for America and taught high school chemistry in North Philadelphia, a mostly black and Puerto Rican neighborhood.
Houlahan then shifted into the world of business operations and social entrepreneurship. She became chief operating officer of AND1 Basketball, an apparel and footwear brand. And she was founding COO of B-Lab, a nonprofit that promotes B corporations, which are for-profit companies that also pursue social goals. She then served as president, COO and financial chief of Springboard Collaborative, a nonprofit focused on improving early childhood literacy.
This congressional campaign is Houlahan’s first venture into politics. In a message on her website, she says she’s running to take on Trump, change a Congress that is “complicit” and remove a congressman who “is contributing to this destruction.” Her policy priorities include improving the public school system, providing affordable healthcare and building a healthy, modern economy that creates quality jobs.
“I fear the American Dream that I benefited from is in danger,” she says. “I never thought I would run for elected office, but service does not stop when you leave the Armed Forces.”
The Latest on the Campaign
November 7, 2018:
Women Running for Office in 2018 Achieve Record-Breaking Wins
A surge of women candidates this year resulted in record numbers of women securing political office. We saw it all — wins, losses and unclear outcomes — in our Running Women project. Read the full story.
Chrissy Houlahan was among a parade of women who flipped congressional seats previously held by Republicans — albeit aided by court-administered redistricting of a gerrymandered district — and helped return majority control of the House to the Democrats.
October 17, 2018
The Boss Croons in New Video Highlighting Women Veteran Candidates
By Jenna Miller
Chrissy Houlahan and a squad other women veterans got the seal of approval from The Boss himself in their campaigns to become Congressional lady bosses.
Bruce Springsteen gave Serve America PAC permission to use his song, “The Rising,” in the organization’s new video “Women Rising” released on Oct. 9, which features eight women veterans including Houlahan. Serve America PAC is dedicated to supporting candidates with records of putting “people over politics.”
The video shines a spotlight on these eight women, who served their country as pilots, officers and analysts in the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Central Intelligence Agency. They completed tours in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq and, once safely back in the United States, decided to continue to serve by running for office.
In the video, Houlahan talks about her experience serving as a captain in the U.S. Air Force and, now, running for a Congressional seat in the Pennsylvania district she moved to more than 20 years ago.
October 10, 2018
Democratic Candidates Take to Twitter to Oppose Kavanaugh Supreme Court Appointment, Defend Accuser Blasey
Multiple candidates in our Running Women 2018 project, including Chrissy Houlahan, used social media to amplify the voices of women sexual assault survivors. Here’s what they said before, during and after Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Read the full story.
September 7, 2018:
Female Representation in Pennsylvania’s House Delegation on Track to Go to 4 from Zero
In the midterm elections for the U.S. House, Democratic women look poised to make some of their greatest gains in Pennsylvania, where four women are poised to win seats, according to an NBC News analysis.
A quartet of Democratic women from the Philadelphia suburbs — Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon, Chrissy Houlahan and Susan Wild — are well-positioned to win their races, following a February redrawing of the state’s gerrymandered congressional map. Pennsylvania’s current House delegation consists of 18 men.
NBC estimates that 30 to 40 new women from across the country will enter the House in January, lifting the total number of women above 100 for the first time in history. That would shatter the previous record of 24 female newcomers set in 1992, in what came to be called the “Year of the Woman.” Analysts interpreted 1992’s wave as a backlash against Clarence Thomas’ confirmation to Supreme Court, despite Anita Hill’s claims of sexual harassment. This year, many Democratic women candidates — including Houlahan — have made it clear that they are seeking office to put a check on President Donald Trump, who has also been accused of harassment and misogyny.
August 13, 2018:
DNC Spotlights Houlahan’s Race as “Critical” to Democrats in 2018
The Democratic National Committee featured Chrissy Houlahan in a fundraising email on Monday, calling her race and five others “critical” to the Democrats’ effort to oust Republican members of Congress and regain majority control of U.S. House of Representatives.
The email blast, which went to supporters across the U.S., suggests that Houlahan’s campaign will benefit from national publicity and national funding. Receiving a stamp of approval from the DNC is a huge get, especially if the organization directs significant sums of money to her campaign. It also suggests that the party sees Houlahan as a rising star who can attract donations needed to reach its larger goal of taking control of Congress.
Five of the six candidates featured in the DNC email were women, in a nod to the flood of Democratic women candidates this year and activist energy they have been harnessing. The DNC highlighted Houlahan as a champion of healthcare, an issue she has made a top priority on the campaign trail. She considers healthcare a fundamental human right and has promised to expand access and control costs.
May 16, 2018:
Chrissy Houlahan Wins Tuesday Primary in Big Step for Pennsylvania Women in Politics
The U.S. Navy veteran, who ran unopposed for a House seat in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary elections, is one of seven women who could shake up the state’s all-male congressional delegation. Read the full story.
March 27, 2018:
Democrat Chrissy Houlahan Becomes Frontrunner as 2 Candidates Drop Out of Pa. Congressional Race
The political newcomer now leads the pack to represent Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District after Republican incumbent Ryan Costello and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Moro drop out. Read the full story.
March 19, 2018:
This Political Newcomer Could Break Pennsylvania’s 18-Man Grip on Congress
March 15, 2018:
Joe Biden Gives His Support to Houlahan
February 21, 2018:
Houlahan Benefits From Court Move Against Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania
A new voter map, drawn by the State Supreme Court to undo Republican gerrymandering, is seen to lift Democrats’ electoral chances in 2018, especially those of Chrissy Houlahan. Read the full story.
February 7, 2018:
Houlahan’s District is Thrown Into Question
Pennsylvania Democrat Chrissy Houlahan doesn’t know which congressional district she is running to represent anymore. Her confusion stems from a recent State Supreme Court ruling that voided Pennsylvania’s district map due to unconstitutional gerrymandering. Read the full story.