Judge Tonya Parker presides over the 116th Civil District Court in Dallas County, where she determines the outcome of cases ranging from medical malpractice to employment discrimination. She serves litigants from all over the world, so long as their civil case touches Dallas County limits in some way. Her calm demeanor and intellectual remarks exemplify her ability to articulate in depth policy perspectives. She has been the recipient of tremendous honors, highlighting her dedication to the community she serves, including Dallas Women’s Foundation’s “Maura Leadership Award”, “Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service” from her alma mater SMU Dedman School of Law, and “Trial Judge of the Year” by the American Board of Trial Advocates – Dallas Chapter. But practicing law hadn’t always been Parker’s number one passion. If it weren’t for role models throughout her adolescence, she might’ve continued focusing on her blooming career as an athlete, never realizing her potential on the bench.
Emily Jackson created the “She’s Running Podcast”, an online talk show that interviews women who are running for office, after the 2016 Presidential Election. She felt that the newly elected presidential administration would perpetuate a cycle of limited representation in government, particularly for women. Early on, Jackson ruled out running for office herself after joining a political incubator; she identified as an introvert, making a life of knocking on doors and speaking to crowds, difficult. Instead, Jackson decided to garner her entrepreneurial skills by creating a podcast, and corresponding website, to share the stories of women who are running. Eventually, Jackson expanded her reach of influence even further by not only interviewing candidates, but also leaders from nonprofits dedicated to electing women like She Should Run and IGNITE National.
At eight years old, Amanda Ghagar knew she wanted to be a lawyer. When asked in elementary what she aspired to be when she grew up, Ghagar was told “oh honey, you have to go to school for that!”, assuming she wouldn't go to college, let alone law school. Now, as an established lawyer in the DFW area, Ghagar is running for judge of Dallas County’s 68th District Court. If elected, she would become the first Iranian-American to hold public office as a judge in Texas. Growing up in conservative Lampasas, Texas, she knew that she would face an uphill battle in gaining the trust of her community, not only as a woman and an Iranian-American but also as a Democrat. Ghagar now hopes to break the status quo set by society for herself, as a public official.
Ericka Ledferd is running for County Commissioner in Rockwall County, one of the smallest and wealthiest counties in Texas, 30 miles Northeast of Dallas. Though she is embarking on her first campaign for public office, she is no newcomer to the political sphere. Ledferd has volunteered on a variety of political campaigns including one for State Rep. Victoria Neave and Kendall Scudder for Texas Senate. Ledferd was motivated to file for a place on the ballot last November when she realized that she was capable of more. She said, “sometimes you need to be in the trenches to inspire other people”. She knew she could no longer help others with their political aspirations if she didn’t put faith in herself as a candidate
Yolian Ogbu serves as an Intern for IGNITE National, a non-profit dedicated to building political ambition in young women, an Ambassador for Bridge the Divide, an organization focused on eliminating exclusive divisiveness in politics, a NextGen Ambassador for UNICEF, and as a Field Operative for Lilian Salerno, TX-32. If her current resume wasn’t impressive enough, the City of Frisco also dedicated a proclamation to Ogbu, calling it “Yolian Ogbu Day”, in honor of her successful leadership throughout her community. She even has her very own website! Ogbu uses her status as a successful public figure in Texas to advocate for accessible civic education, an essential resource she believes is lacking among the youth in her community.
The square-mile city of Cockrell Hill sits surrounded by the City of Dallas but maintains its own municipal structure. Unlike other Texas cities, the Cockrell Hill City Council has five at-large seats plus a mayoral position. These seats are filled by candidates who file in January for a March election, creating a brief but impactful two-month long campaign for elected office.Claudia Sandoval was elected in 2016 to fill Cockrell Hill City Council’s Place 2 at the age of 26, making her the youngest elected official within Dallas County. Sandoval, a Cockrell Hill native, decided to run for office not because she had dreamed of being an elected official, but rather because she felt her hometown needed a leader for infrastructural change. Her journey to public service began in her family home, under the inspiring and guiding will of her mother.
Sara Martinez, a first-generation American, currently serves as the Justice of the Peace, or JP, in Precinct 5-1, where she sits as one of ten JPs for Dallas County, Texas, a region stricken with poverty. As a Justice of the Peace, Martinez advocates for access to quality education and find that lack of access correlates to what we see in the courtroom with high eviction rates for those with limited job opportunities. She currently serves as one of only three women filling the ten-person bench, and yet she moves to create an impactful mark during her time in office, recognizing that women face systemic barriers preventing them from entering politics. Her campaign for office, beginning in 2013 against a favored candidate, also created major waves in Dallas political circles as she ran as one of few openly LGBT candidates, promising to be her most authentic self.
When asked what was next for her, Eddie Bernice Johnson, a United States Representative serving the 30th district of Texas laughed a bit and simply said, “I’m going to retire!” A well deserved retirement it will be. Johnson, a Waco native, began serving in 1972 when she won a landslide election to claim her seat in the Texas House of Representatives, the first African American woman ever elected to public office in Dallas. She has been working in public service since.
Welcome to the Lone Star Parity Project, a nonpartisan online publication dedicated to sharing the stories of women in Texas politics, combined with research, to assist female candidates with their campaigns. My name is Brooke López and I am one of the Founders of the Lone Star Parity Project. Today, I want to formally invite you to join our movement of transforming the status quo in the Lone Star state.