After nearly flipping a majority GOP district in 2018, Julia Pulver is now running to represent the 39th District in the state House.
In 2015, Julia Pulver was working as a case manager for people living with spinal cord and brain injuries. At the time, the Michigan legislature was considering a bill that would’ve erased legal protections for people who had sustained injuries in an auto accident.
Pulver, 37, had an epiphany. “We don’t have anyone with a healthcare background making policy at the state level,” she thought. The following year—2016, the year “everything went off the rails,” Pulver said—she ran for office. She lost her county commission race, but didn’t give up.
“I decided I needed to stay out there, stay active, and organize,” she said. “It became a calling.”
In 2018, she ran for the Michigan Senate. She lost that bid too, but nearly flipped a majority GOP district. Despite being vastly outspent, Pulver came within 3.4% of beating her opponent.
People took notice.
That second defeat might have deterred other candidates, but not Pulver. Now, she’s running to unseat Republican state Rep. Ryan Berman to represent the 39th District in the state House. Berman, a former prosecutor, is serving his first term.
The tweet that launched thousands of retweets
Last April, Pulver gained national attention when a Twitter thread of hers was retweeted more than 55,000 times, including by Patton Oswalt and Patricia Arquette. In it, she addressed President Trump’s incorrect, incendiary statements regarding so-called “late-term abortions” at a campaign rally in Wisconsin.
“The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor,” the president told the Green Bay crowd. “They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. Then the doctor and mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”
Trump’s statements were “horrific,” Pulver recalled. In her thread, she talked about what it’s like to serve on the bereavement team for parents as a NICU nurse. “It went beyond misinformation. And it was insulting to every parent who’s ever had to make this gut-wrenching decision. I felt the need to set the record straight.”
Because of her willingness to stand up for the truth, Pulver was the first 2020 state legislature candidate endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America. “As anti-choice lawmakers across the country continue to push their extreme and unpopular agenda of banning abortion and punishing women, Michiganders need leaders like Julia who will fight for a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about pregnancy, free from interference by politicians like Ryan Berman,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of the Washington, D.C.-based abortion rights group, in the endorsement.
The wife, mother of four, and self-professed “open book” isn’t afraid to speak truth-to-power—even on a divisive topic such as reproductive rights.
“In every other area of health care,” Pulver said, “we give patients power to make their own decisions—about organ donation, chemo, everything. Clinicians give patients the information they need to make an informed decision—except for this one. It’s a weird, paternalistic notion.”
The issue that affects, well, everyone
Although health care is what led her to run, Pulver is far from a single-issue candidate. She talks about teacher pay, roads, fair wages, clean water. “In the summer, there are now signs up at our lakes—both Great and inland—saying ‘Don’t eat the fish,’” she said.
But health care—something that, as of press time, Berman doesn’t even mention on his campaign website—is everyone’s concern. “We only have one body and one life,” Pulver said. “And there’s a huge inequity in how those bodies are taken care of.”
Pulver added, however, that she’s not pushing her agenda. “When I knock on doors, I ask people what they care about, what motivates them to vote,” she said. “Seven out of 10 tell me their main issue has something to do with health care. Even people with good insurance are having to ration their doctor visits because of high deductibles.”
Michigan’s primary isn’t until August. Pulver doesn’t have a primary opponent, though the filing deadline isn’t until April. If she does end up having someone run against her, she isn’t worried. “I just plan,” she said. “If there is a primary, my messaging won’t change. I’m the same person regardless—an optimist in all things.”
She also describes herself as a “wonk,” an indefatigable fighter, and a “regular person” determined to keep health care at the forefront of the campaign. “It’s a politically salient issue,” she said. “Health care impacts everyone.”