Recap: State Rep. Victoria Neave Talks Women in Politics at TWU

As part of Texas Woman’s University’s Global Connections Initiative, the institution hosted “Women in Politics: A Talk with State Representative Victoria Neave” this past Monday, March 5.  Being one of the most diverse campuses in the country and one of the largest universities in Texas that primarily serves women, the initiative “strives to create a campus climate of global awareness and understanding by providing a variety of multicultural experiences and connections for TWU students, faculty, staff, and community,” according to TWU’s website.

Neave was elected in 2016 to represent Texas House District 107, which includes parts of East Dallas, Mesquite, and Garland. Throughout her campaign, the first-time candidate said she learned that issues were more important than party, eventually winning her election and unseating a Republican incumbent. As she relayed the details of how she won the seat, Neave’s passion for women’s involvement in politics was increasingly evident, explaining that women only make up 20 percent of Texas House representatives. “We need 46 more women of any party,” she said, joking about the weirdness of debating women’s healthcare to a room full of men.

The daughter of a previously undocumented immigrant father, Neave grew up in Pleasant Grove, Texas, or “the barrio,” as she described it to her audience on Monday. Though her father arrived in the United States with just a sixth grade education, Neave said her parents stressed the importance of education to her from a young age. Initially, she was interested in the sciences and dreamed of becoming a doctor, but a passion for justice led her to get involved in a civil rights group in high school. Her interest in justice followed her through college, and Neave eventually decided to pursue a law degree. After graduating from law school, she was hired at one of the top 10 law firms in the country. However, she eventually left the firm to pursue a career in politics.

As a proud champion of women’s rights, it was important to the newly-elected representative that her first piece of legislation be related to a feminist cause, so she introduced House Bill 1729. The bill allows Texans applying for or renewing their license (and other identification certificates) to simply check a box to donate toward funding to test the enormous backlog of rape kits, some so old they have grown mold. Neave admits ordinary citizens should not have to “crowdfund” for something so important, noting the humiliation and discomfort of a 4-6 hour rape examination. However, the bill is expected to raise at least $1 million a year, generating $50,000 in the first month, and Governor Abbott has announced his intention to ensure government funds are allocated toward testing this backlog as well.

Although working across party lines seems difficult to navigate in today’s hyper-partisan political climate, Naeve gave an example of how beneficial reaching across the aisle can be.

“When folks don’t work together, things don’t get done,” she said, explaining how in her effort to build relationships with her fellow representatives, she made flashcards to help her memorize their names and other relevant information such as which committees they served on.

When Senate Bill 4, commonly known as the “Sanctuary City Bill”, which would allow police officers to demand proof of citizenship during routine encounters with citizens was introduced, many house Democrats furiously opposed it. Neave proposed an amendment to the bill which would allow local entities to prohibit police officers from assisting ICE in places of worship. To garner support from conservatives for her proposed amendment, Neave reached out to Republican state representative who doubles as a faith leader in his time away from the House floor and argued the importance of the amendment to communities of faith. After convincing him to support the protection of places of worship, they worked together to win the support of enough conservatives to pass the amendment.

An overarching theme of Neave’s talk was the importance of young people’s political involvement and the need for more diverse representation in our government.

“Millenials don’t realize their power for structural change when voting. If every student registered to vote, Democrats could win,” Neave said.

According to her campaign manager Ramiro Luna, a DREAMer and psychology major at UNT, Neave is dedicated to helping young people run for office. Her campaign fellowship gives high school and college students the opportunity to learn about the ins and outs of campaigning through four intimate sessions with elected officials.

At the end of her talk, Neave left the audience with words of encouragement.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. If you want to serve, don’t let anyone get in your way.”

Global Connections at TWU’s next public event “Telling Your Story: A Workshop with Jennifer Sarver” is Monday, April 9 from 3-5 p.m. in ACT 301. More information can be found on their page of the TWU website, linked below:

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