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Julie Johnson Heads To Austin As One Of Dallas County's First Two Openly Gay Legislators

Miguel Perez
Democrat Julie Johnson will represent House District 115, which stretches from Carrollton to Irving in northwest Dallas County.

When the Texas Legislature gavels into session next week, Julie Johnson will make history. She'll be one of Dallas County's first two openly gay legislators — and the first state House member with a same-sex spouse.

Johnson is part of a Democratic wave from North Texas — she beat Tea Party Republican Matt Rinaldi in Texas District 115, which spans from Carrollton into Irving.

For this week's Friday Conversation, she stopped by KERA studios before she heads to Austin next week as the 2019 legislative session starts. 

Interview Highlights

On representing a historically Republican Texas House district

"I think that, quite frankly, the Democratic Party has been underrepresented for a long time. We have not given this district a meaningful choice. For the first time in many years, the voters in House 115 had a competitive race and a Democratic candidate that was funded, staffed and could present the issues in an articulate way."

On making an impact as a rookie legislator

"One of the problems with my predecessor is that he burned so many bridges, and he had so many personal enemies that he wasn't able to get anything done. I have a lot of friends who are Republicans, and I get along great with a lot of the freshman Republicans I've met ... I think the majority party is learning some lessons that they can't be that polarizing if they want to retain their seats."

On the Rainbow Wave in the 2018 midterm elections

"I got elected not because I'm part of the LGBT community but because I have a strong commitment to public education and I want to solve health care and I want to work on issues that affect all Texans.... I love my wife very much, and I'm proud of who I am, but I'm a lot of things. I'm excited to bring all of me to the Texas Legislature." 

Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.
Miguel Perez is an assistant producer at KERA. He produces local content for Morning Edition and KERA News. He also produces The Friday Conversation, a weekly interview series with North Texas newsmakers.