Chrissy Houlahan

The Pennsylvania business leader and U.S. Navy veteran is challenging an incumbent Republican for a swing seat in the U.S. House. Can she flip it to the Democrats?

By Zoe Searles and Riva Richmond

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, candidate for Congress from Pennsylvania

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 leans Republican according to three different sources, but Hillary Clinton won it in 2016 and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has named it an initial target to flip in 2018. That means that Houlahan — if she wins the Democratic primary against Bob Dettore — would likely receive committee money and support, strengthening her chances. Though a newcomer to politics, her fundraising is already off to a strong start — she had amassed $811,000 as of Sept. 30. And she 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

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.


Posted: January 17, 2018

Zoe Searles and Riva RichmondChrissy Houlahan