If Jonathan Hildner wins his race for house district 54, he could be the second-youngest member of the state legislature. The 28-year-old community activist would also be the first African American representative from the district, which is 54 percent minority-majority.
Originally Hildner announced he was running in congressional district 31, but after redistricting he opted to change course to a state house race. The new HD 54, which is located entirely in Bell County, was dubbed the donut district after the maps were unveiled last year because it encircles the Killeen-Temple metropolitan corridor.
In 2020, the Republican incumbent won with 53.4 percent of the vote. Now Hildner’s team estimates the district is Republican plus four, which makes it one of the most competitive races in the state.
Speaking to the Signal, Hildner noted the uphill battle he faces since a Democrat hasn’t represented the district since 1996. He has several issues that he’s running on to markedly improve the community, including increasing jobs, a livable minimum wage, and expanding veteran’s care
“There are so many things in this community that have just been left untouched for so many years under Republican leadership,” says Hildner. He also wants to strengthen hospitals and schools, two workplaces that have seen an exodus of workers over the years but were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hildner’s background has charted the course of his community activism to candidate. His birth mother was 12 years old when she gave birth. He was then adopted by her mother and stepfather, who became his father. Hildner’s father was a Brigadier General who passed away in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2012.
“The loss of him in my second semester of my senior year of high school was just devastating,” says Hildner. As a gold star child, Hildner has always felt compelled “to speak out for those families and kids who are left behind after their guardian passes away in the line of duty.”
Hildner graduated from college in 2018 and made his way to Washington D.C. where he worked for Congresswoman Katherine Clark. He was then hired by the Biden presidential campaign in Iowa, and later Georgia. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hildner was sent back home to Killeen.
After the protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, Hildner got to organizing in his hometown. He started an organization called Let’s Move Killeen to continue that criminal justice activism. Last year, the Killeen city council banned the use of no-knock warrants.
With the end of Roe v. Wade and the Texas trigger law going into effect, Hildner has seen a shift in people’s attitudes when it comes to reproductive freedom. “Now that it’s been taken away, those that may have had a differing opinion in the past are recognizing the outright overreach.”
Early voting in Texas begins October 24.