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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

On The Record: Joy Demark

For this edition of On The Record, we talk with Joy Demark, SDEC Committeewoman for Senate District 7.

How did you get started in politics? Did you come to it in your youth or later on?

I was always interested in politics. I remember my cousin and I sitting under the dining room table during family get-togethers and listening to my elders discussing politics. My family and I didn’t always agree, but I learned to discuss politics.

I joined the League of Women voters when I got married. I moved to Houston in 1971, and I dabbled in volunteering until I had more time to commit. Something always triggers you to become passionate and to really begin your involvement, and for me, it was when Harris County turned red.

There is no balance of power in that type of situation, and the Democratic constituents became under-represented, and it is not right.

What was your personal progression from the role of activist to the role of Committeewoman?

I was one of the founding members of the West Houston Democratic Club, for which I was president from 1999 to 2006. I was also the previous precinct chair in order to become even more involved locally, which is very important to the progress of our Democratic cause.

I resigned as president of the club last year, but the organization is still active in Houston and encouraging other clubs and organizations to supply the same message across the board in order for the Democratic party to advance. I was also Chair of Harris County Clubs and Organizations for three years, from 2002 to 2005. I am currently active on the Mayor’s Affirmative Action Committee.

When I ran to represent SDEC 7, it had the lowest DPI of all Senate Districts in Texas, along with some of the highest education and income levels. I felt there was a pressing need for an activist to assist others in addressing these issues.

What would you say are the primary issues concerning Houston?

The Houston City Council is basically all Democrats, save one or two. The majority of the city leans to the Democratic side as well. But the county has encountered an issue in advancing our mission. We have forgotten to think locally. It is imperative not to lose focus on the local arena when trying to make political changes. You have to remember that at the base of politics is local politics.

An example of this oversight would be questions I heard like, “Who’s running for President,” as soon as the 2004 elections were over. What about the base of local politics? The question should have been, “Who’s the candidate running for the mayoral election?” The training ground for good public servants starts locally; from there they become qualified to move up the ladder and become quality leaders. Most people find local politics boring. Many voters don’t know their city council or school board members. In order to become effective, you need to talk to local officials. The grassroots and netroots are not hitting the true base of politics if local voters are forgetting local politics.

Do you have any ambition for higher office? Do you have plans to run for any other party office, or possibly even public office?

No, thank you. I’m proud of Nancy Pelosi for her accomplishments, but she started a lot younger than I did.

Who are some of your political heroes?

Lady Bird Johnson always had a lot of quiet strength and dignity. Lady Bird had more to do with the Great Society than most people know. She was supportive of LBJ and the Voting Rights Act, and she stood strongly for civil rights. She was a quiet supporter of LBJ, but extremely vital to his career.

Liz Carpenter was press secretary for Lady Bird, and she is another hero of mine. She never failed to stand for women’s issues, and she excelled with sophisticated humor and style.

What are you looking forward to in the coming cycle?

My wish is for more state representatives in Austin, and maybe even the state Senate. But we definitely need more sensible state representatives to forward our cause.

What advice would you give to young people just getting into politics?

Two things: first, communication is becoming extremely accessible, and I suggest everyone think hard before clicking ‘send’ on their email or phone text messages. Second, phone banking and cold-calling is extremely important in dealing with campaigns. Cold-calling people for your cause will change your entire perspective and turn you into a whole new person. You learn the skill of communicating, and in politics, communication is the most important thing. People are afraid to call and won’t call, and that really can change the most important races.

What one thing would you say a political organization never has enough of?

Happy phone callers! Dialing for dollars through robo-calling is one thing, but there’s no alternative for personal contact. How do you block-walk in rural areas or gated communities? Personal contact is hard to initiate these days, and personal phone calls from enthusiastic volunteers is still a tremendous asset to a campaign. A candidate calling voters personally will make a great difference as well.

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in politics?

I would like to be more like Barbara Jordan, with her thoughtfulness and tremendous verbal skills. I am still learning and I want to expand my horizons as I grow.

Tell us a little bit about representing SDEC 7, and what roles you feel like you fulfill, official or otherwise.

SDEC 7 includes some of the nicest people, first of all. I enjoy representing them.

The most important part of my job is keeping voters informed on the state level, but it is hard to do because the elections are constant and hard to keep up with.

I send out a report email after each SDEC meeting to keep local voters informed. I found out after I started doing that that the report gets sent from my mailing list to about 1000 people around the state. The main part is communication.

It's Demark

Not Denmark.

Good catch, Adam. :-) Fixed.

Good catch, Adam. :-) Fixed.

I'm the Best!

Just in case someone doubted me, names are my specialty.

My b.

Tongue Twister

For the record, SD 7 has the lowest DPI - that's Democratic percent index - of all the 31 Senate Districts but has one of the highest income and education levels in Texas. Got my tongue tangled and must have said it backwards. Eeeck



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