Austin journalist turned governor-hopeful Joy Diaz confident in a runoff against Beto O'Rourke in the primaries
In her blue mini-cooper sporting custom "VOTE JOY" license plates, ex-media professional Joy Diaz has traveled across the state for the past month to galvanize Texans to vote for her for governor.
A longtime Austin resident, Diaz first announced her run for governor in December just weeks after leaving her journalism job at KUT's Texas Standard radio show. With no political experience, Diaz is on a mission to oust Gov. Greg Abbott from office. But first, she has to win the Democratic primary, in which she is up against former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke and others.
Although the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll shows 93% of Democrats taking the poll would vote for O'Rourke, Diaz is confident in her run.
"A runoff would be a win," Diaz said. "When it is time to vote, I am hoping that for a lot of people, the name Joy will spark something in them... I think I have a lot in me that can serve Texans. And I hope that they see that in my name."
Challenges of running for governor
Since Austonia spoke to Diaz just before her announcement of her gubernatorial run in early December, a lot has happened to the 16-year media vet. What little time she had before early voting kicked off on Feb. 14, dwindled more when she took time to care for her husband who needed brain surgery the week of her announcement due to a biking accident.
She didn't get to really start campaigning until January, although she had been able to make pre-campaign visits in South Texas cities Laredo and McAllen in November. She's been all over the state in the past few weeks making up for lost time, including on Democratic club tours to Tyler, San Angelo and Waxahachie.
Joy Diaz has campagined across the state in January. (Sandra Dahdah)
Turnout is unpredictable, she says. While she has seen packed venues in places like Waco, she said turnout can come down to the weather and COVID infections, as January saw the omicron surge.
After speaking with attendees across the state, Diaz said it's clear to her that people don't care what her political party is—they want to pour their hearts out with what troubles them—and what they hope she can fix.
"It reinforces the fact that there is no public service in the heart of Greg Abbott—or not anymore, perhaps it was there at some point, but it doesn't exist anymore. It's all about self-service," Diaz said. "You cannot politicize the needs of people."
A big challenge Diaz has faced is getting her message heard at all. There hasn't been a debate opportunity for people to hear from the candidates, which she says surprised her.
"Democracy doesn't work if only the wealthiest people have a voice," Diaz said.
Diaz doesn't have major financial backers like Abbott and O'Rourke with millions behind their campaigns. She's raised some funds with two grassroots organizations but says talking about the money is an imbalanced conversation when she's been raising for a few weeks as opposed to years. She asks, "Is money a disqualifier?"
Joy Diaz speaks at an event in Laredo. (Sandra Dahdah)
While Diaz says she's confident in a runoff, Plan B is definitely something she's thought about.
She's hopeful that if she isn't to be governor, she can continue traveling the state and hearing about peoples' greatest concerns. She wants to somehow be the liaison between people and power. "I think that answers don't come because people in power really don't know that these needs exist," she said.
Come Election Day on March 1, Diaz will watch the results from a dinner party she's hosting.
"It is definitely the beginning of the rest of my life whatever happens March 1," she said.
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Austin police have charged Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, a local cyclist, for the murder of Moriah "Mo" Wilson.
Wilson, a rising star in the gravel and mountain bike community, was found dead with gunshot wounds inside an East Austin home on the night of May 11 when she was in town for the weekend Gravel Locos race in Hico, Texas.
Police believe Wilson was having a relationship with a man Armstrong was also in a relationship with. The man, another gravel cyclist, Colin Strickland, has since issued a statement on the murder.
In his statement, he said he had a brief romantic relationship with Wilson in October 2021 before he resumed his relationship with Armstrong, but that he remained friends with Wilson. "There is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime. I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable tragedy.
NEW: Austin professional cyclist Colin Strickland has just released a statement about the murder of cyclist Moriah Wilson, clarifying his relationship with her and expressing “torture about my proximity to this horrible crime.” pic.twitter.com/KnIna3mWrE
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) May 20, 2022
Wilson, a 25-year-old Vermont native living in Colorado, had won a slew of races becoming a fan favorite. She had just become a full-time racer this year.
Anyone with information on this crime can contact Austin police at 512-974-TIPS or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 512-472-8477.
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Austin has added 24-hour security to the city-owned Pecan Gardens property, which will be converted into supportive housing for people exiting homelessness, after the former hotel was found with months of damage and vandalism May 5.
The building, which was broken into and stripped of copper and had people illegally sleeping inside of it, has been secured, Kelly said in a Friday press conference. Kelly said the city confirmed a measure to implement 24-hour security, including updates every 60 days until the property opens up as supportive housing.
"We cannot let this happen to any vacant city-owned property ever again," Kelly said. "This blatant act of disregard and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our community."
The city bought the former hotel in August 2021 for $9.5 million with plans to renovate the property into a 78-unit supportive housing property. Those 55 or older that are experiencing chronic homelessness can qualify to live at the site once it is completed in late 2022-early 2023.
While the council was set to discuss a $4 million deal with Family Eldercare to begin converting the property Thursday, Kelly pulled the item for a later executive session due to security concerns. But the council did approve an item to authorize city leaders to begin negotiating other renovation contracts.
"I want to thank my colleagues for pumping the brakes on this contract and realizing that we owe the community not only an apology, but reassurance that the protection of the assets the city owns is vital to the success of achieving our intended goals," Kelly said.
When the building was found vandalized May 5, Kelly, who presides over the district containing the property, said damage included:
- Damage spanning all three floors of the building and is in nearly every room.
- The entire hotel was stripped of copper.
- Destroyed washers, dryers, air conditioners and electrical wiring.
- People sleeping at the hotel without permission.
On Tuesday, Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray apologized and said there was no security due to a delay in processing the request.
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