(From left) Celina Montoya, running for TX HD 121; Stephanie Phillips, running for TX HD 73; Joi Chevalier, running for Texas Comptroller; and Claire Barnett, running for TX HD 122.
(From left) Celina Montoya, running for Texas House District 121; Stephanie Phillips, running for House District 73; Joi Chevalier, running for Texas Comptroller; and Claire Barnett, running for House District 122. Credit: Courtesy / Respective Campaign Facebook Pages

Four female candidates will sit down Monday to talk about the experiences and challenges that women face when running for political office.

Democracy is Ours, a nonpartisan group that organizes forums on political topics, will host area candidates Celina Montoya, Stephanie Phillips, Claire Barnett, and Joi Chevalier. Montoya, Phillips, and Barnett are all Democrats running for the Texas House of Representatives, while Democrat Chevalier, an Austin resident, is challenging incumbent Glenn Hegar to be Texas Comptroller.

Montoya, who is running for the District 121 seat left vacant by the retirement of House Speaker Joe Straus, said Monday’s panel was important to her because of who organized it.

“Democracy is Ours came out of a community of women who wanted to have conversations and have the opportunity to speak with each other and experts, and gain knowledge and to be more civically engaged,” she said. “I think that’s at the crux of what we’re all trying to do.”

Democracy is Ours founders Kathryn Keeton and Jenni Blacklock met at a neighborhood party after the 2016 presidential election, and discovered a kinship in their desire to become more involved in the democratic process. They formed Democracy is Ours last year, which is loosely made up of 10 to 15 women who plan events about politically salient topics.

The organization has hosted panels on gun safety and human trafficking. A conversation about women running for office was an easy addition to their schedule, Blacklock said.

“I believe the needle moves every time a woman runs,” she said “We look at our general population of being 50 percent women, while only 20 to 25 percent serve in the legislative branches of our state and federal government. I think the more women we get involved, the better off our society will be.”

Women bring much-needed diversity to the table, said House District 122 candidate Barnett, who is challenging incumbent Lyle Larson.

“We need people of all different backgrounds in office to be truly representative of our society,” Barnett said. “If 75 percent of our representatives are white men between the ages of 45 and 65, then what perspective are they bringing? It’s probably a valuable perspective, but it’s one perspective.”

Montoya said people always assume she’s running because she’s angry or because she thinks she lacks representation in the current Legislature.

“While those things are accurate and true, I think it comes down to who we are as a community and what we want our priorities to be,” she said. “Our representation is not reflective of our community, and from everything I’m hearing when I knock on doors, we’re not acting on the priorities of our communities either.”

Although the four women on Monday’s panels are Democrats, Keeton said that was simply a result of who agreed to participate.

“I hope when we do future topics that we get responses from all sides,” she said.

Monday’s event will be at Paesanos 1604, located at 3622 Paesanos Parkway. The venue will open for social networking at 6 p.m, and the panel begins at 7 p.m. Rivard Report managing editor Graham Watson-Ringo will be moderating. For more information, visit Democracy is Ours’ Facebook event page.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is a general assignment reporter at the Rivard Report.