Democratic Startup Founders Kopser and Sawyer Lose in Election Bids

Two Texas startup founders who ran for seats in the U.S. Congress and the Texas statehouse lost their bids for political office Tuesday.

Joseph Kopser

Joseph Kopser in Austin and Allison Lami Sawyer in Houston were both first-time candidates and ran as Democrats, sparked by a concern about political discourse in the wake of the 2016 election. Both were part of a group of “science-based” candidates for public office in the midterm elections. At the federal level, nearly two dozen scientists sought office and many received support from a PAC called 314 Action, which started in 2016 to recruit, train, and fund those in science and healthcare to run for political office.

“We have made a huge step in the right direction,” Kopser said early Wednesday in a concession speech in Austin after losing his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. “We changed the conversation. We didn’t talk about the politics of division; instead we used facts and we used sciences and we tried with every chance to use truth.”

The Republican candidate, Chip Roy, won the seat for Texas’ 21st congressional district with 50.3 percent of votes cast, or by 9,893 votes more than Kopser, a margin that seemed unlikely in the solidly GOP district. Sawyer lost to incumbent Sarah Davis by 5,949 votes for Texas House District 134. Davis secured 53.4 percent of votes.

Allison Lami Sawyer

Both Sawyer and Kopser are active in the Houston and Austin tech communities. In addition to running her energy tech startup, Rebellion Photonics, Sawyer hosts an annual pitch competition weekend aimed at supporting women founders called Start Here Now. Kopser, a former West Point professor who did two tours in Iraq, sold his transportation app RideScout to Daimler in 2014 and has since supported programs such as Bunker Labs to help veterans start their own businesses.

In their concession remarks, both candidates seemed to suggest that they would not run again in two years. “I cannot wait to support the next progressive Democrat to run for the 134 in two years,” Sawyer posted on her Facebook page.

Kopser said he will continue his work with veterans and focus on efforts to boost girls’ in STEM education. “I will continue to work in clean energy,” he said. “I fought in Iraq two times. I saw what happens when the greatest nation in the world and the economy worldwide is addicted to the oil in the Middle East. I want to make sure that we’re moving off of that oil to cleaner energy, providing jobs for the future.”

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