On Nov. 3, 2020, the 7th Congressional District of Texas reelected Kenyon alumna Lizzie Pannill Fletcher ’97 for a second term in the United States House of Representatives. Fletcher is the only Kenyon alumna currently occupying a seat in Congress, and she is the first to hold one since Zachary Space ’83 lost his seat as a representative of Ohio’s Congressional District 18 in 2011.
Fletcher, a Democrat, won 50.76% of the vote on Nov. 3, enough to successfully defend her seat against Republican challenger Wesley Hunt, who received 47.47%. With a margin of victory of just over 3%, Fletcher won reelection with a narrower lead than in her initial race, when she defeated Republican incumbent John Culberson with a 5% margin. Texas’s 7th Congressional District, which consists of western Houston and the surrounding suburbs, had consistently elected Republicans. When Fletcher won in 2018, it was the first time that a Democrat held the seat since George H.W. Bush assumed the office in 1967.
The 2020 race also marked an increase in voter turnout in the district compared to 2018. According to the Texas Secretary of State, 67,000 more people voted in the 2020 race for the 7th Congressional seat than in the 2018 race for the same seat.
Collegian archives show that Fletcher was an active participant in student government as sophomore class president, a member of her senior class committee and chair of the Food Service subcommittee of the Committee on Student Affairs. In 1997, Fletcher graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in History with highest honors and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Fletcher was also a nominee for the E. Malcolm Anderson Cup, an honor awarded annually to a student in the graduating class who faculty, staff and students feel has made the most impact on Kenyon.
After graduating from Kenyon, Fletcher studied at the Marshall–Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary, where she became the editor-in-chief of the William & Mary Law Review, according to her Congressional biography. Fletcher then returned to Houston to practice law, eventually becoming the first female partner at AZA Law Firm.
Since arriving in Washington D.C. in 2019, Fletcher’s activity in Congress has reflected her district’s priorities and her committee membership: Fletcher currently serves on the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and chairs the Energy subcommittee. She also serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and vice-chairs the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management subcommittee.
Fletcher has primarily co-sponsored bills that pertain to climate and infrastructure. Exemplifying this focus, Fletcher co-sponsored the Fossil Energy Research and Development Act of 2019, which would have expanded funding for clean energy research into carbon capturing. She also introduced the Bipartisan Disaster Recovery Funding Act, which would have advanced the distribution of disaster relief funds after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. As a representative of a state that produces 41.4% of the United States’ crude oil, she has advanced legislation that supports domestic oil production. She is a member of the Oil and Gas Caucus and recently introduced legislation that would fund government purchases of oil and cushion revenue losses in the wake of the pandemic.
The congresswoman’s office published an annual report highlighting the bipartisan character of Fletcher’s time in office, noting that 77% of the bills she co-sponsored were bipartisan and 97% of the bills she voted for had support from members of both major parties.
Bipartisanship became a centerpiece of her recent campaign. “I’m proud to take our Houston values to Washington: to make sure energy jobs were included in the [Paycheck Protection] program, to pass a bill to lower the cost of prescriptions, to make possible a billion-dollar project at the Port of Houston by working with both parties,” Fletcher said in an August advertisement. This message evidently resonated with Houston voters in 2020.