AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Democratic primary for Texas governor gained another candidate Wednesday: former public radio journalist Joy Diaz.
Diaz released a video Tuesday explaining why she’s entering the race for the state’s top elected position, saying three issues are top of mind for her campaign. Those include the border, public education and state preparedness.
“Our current leadership has forgotten that their mission is to serve us,” she said in her video announcement. “Yes, conventional wisdom may say that it’s unlikely for an average person — even a qualified one, even one with expertise, even one with a huge heart — to become the next governor of this great state, but Texans don’t solely rely on conventional wisdom. We believe in miracles.”
Diaz’s voice may sound familiar to many Texans since she worked for KUT in Austin and would often guest host the statewide “Texas Standard” radio news program. The public radio station announced in November that Diaz would leave to run for public office, but at that time she did not disclose which position she would seek.
According to her video announcement, Diaz suggested a COVID-19 infection that sickened her and her young son before they could get vaccinated ultimately inspired her to leave her career as a journalist and instead seek office.
“I remember the panic of not being able to breathe,” she said. “I also remember thinking that if I lived, because so many have died, that if I lived, I would live a life of public service.”
She joins the Democratic gubernatorial field alongside Beto O’Rourke, a candidate who’s casting a large shadow with widespread name recognition and fundraising firepower. The former El Paso Congressman announced his own campaign for governor in November and raised $2 million within the first 24 hours. However, recent polling has shown O’Rourke trailing Gov. Greg Abbott in head-to-head matchups.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Abbott with a 15-point lead over the former El Paso congressman. That said, Josh Blank, Research Director for the Texas Politics Project, said O’Rourke remains the most viable candidate for Democrats.
“Beto starts the race in a much stronger position than most democratic candidates have in the past few decades,” Blank told KXAN. “He has widespread name ID and he’s going to be able to raise money.”
Diaz highlighted her professional experience as a journalist and a public school teacher as key to being able to handle various issues the state faces. If she became governor, she specifically said she would install an educator as the head of the Texas Education Agency.
“That could help improve our schools dramatically, and right now we don’t have that,” she said.
In addition to her time reporting on the border, Diaz also cited her childhood spent crossing it with a father who worked as a missionary in Mexico to help inform her decision-making.
“When we look at the border, you should know I’m not one of those people who conveniently parachutes themselves on the border on election season,” Diaz said.
A third candidate in the Democratic primary announced Wednesday she had withdrawn her name. Deirdre Gilbert, who runs a non-profit in the Houston area, said she will now run as an independent.
Gov. Abbott faces two Republican primary challengers — Don Huffines and Allen West.