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Austin journalist turned governor-hopeful Joy Diaz confident in a runoff against Beto O'Rourke in the primaries

Former journalist Joy Diaz calls doners for her gubernatorial campaign. (Sandra Dahdah)

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."

(University of Texas/Texas Politics Project Poll)


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)


Plan B

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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