Juli Mathew: Standing strong in the face of adversity
Juli Mathew is running for County Court of Law #3 in Fort Bend County which encompasses twelve cities outside of Houston, Texas. As an immigrant woman from India, Juli has led an uphill battle to bring more intersectional Asian representation across elected office in the area. Her journey hasn’t been easy: she has faced a variety of disparaging remarks during her time campaigning, especially regarding her comingling roles as a mother and candidate. Her campaign focuses on cost-saving measures that can be brought to the Fort Bend County court system with hopes of embracing the diverse community and understanding the obstacles they may face. But to accomplish this, Juli must stand strong in the face of adversity.
As an immigrant herself, she believes it is important for all immigrants to become involved in their political process, recognizing that everyone has the right to embrace their multiple cultural identities. Juli gathered this perspective under the influence of her mother, whom she described as a strong woman. Juli’s mother served as a role model to Juli, noting Indian culture as male dominant yet remembering her mother raising her to be as strong as any man, saying “she taught me that being a female should not be limit me in anything I want to accomplish.”
Juli’s influential childhood led her to become politically active in young adulthood, particularly while in college. During her time as an undergraduate, Juli was elected as President of her Student Government Associate at Penn State – Abington College. Her father always joked that Juli would eventually become the governor of Pennsylvania at her rate. Juli then went on to attend Delaware Law School where she received her Juris Doctor. Recognizing that her journey into politics began at a young age, Juli believes it is because she always exposed to politicians and politically active communities, eventually inspiring her to have a “servant heart”.
In 2002, Juli moved to Houston, Texas, and soon made her home in Fort Bend County. Quickly upon arrival, Juli realized that there were limited elected officials who looked like her. While Fort Bend County is roughly made up of 20% Asian residents, there is not a single judge currently serving who is of Asian descent. Around 2013, Juli began thinking about running for office so, one day, she could change this inequity. Immediately, Juli started inquiring about the process of running for office as a Democrat and was told by a county party official that she would need $85,000 to win in the red Fort Bend County. Because of this, Juli chose not to run during that cycle, regretting her choice soon after; she doesn’t want to regret her decision to not run for office again.
Juli is currently running for Fort Bend County Court of Law #3 where, if elected, she would serve countywide as a judge for civil cases, probate, juvenile charges, and misdemeanors. As a judge, Juli would hope to be timelier – throughout her time as a lawyer in Fort Bend County, she has recognized a variety of practices that cost both the court and litigants time and money. For example: scheduling hearings in which the Supreme Court has ruled that no hearings are required, having to contact the court just to set trial settings rather than automatically setting them by the court itself, costing what Juli believes are wasting of resources. With her general election taking place in November, Juli is still learning the ropes of her campaign one day at a time.
Prior to running for office, Juli had minimal insight on the inner workings of a political campaign. While she had been involved in politics most of her life, she still had a lot of technical information to learn. She began speaking with colleagues and community leaders who had backgrounds in politics, taking notes and suggestions along the way. Juli accredits her success thus far in her campaign to networking with a plan to meet as many people as she possibly can. This is perhaps her favorite part of the campaign, saying “Fort Bend is absolutely amazing with diversity, something I hadn’t had exposure to [before running].”
Her campaign, though successful thus far, hasn’t been perfect. As a mother of three daughters, two under three years old, Juli has faced an uphill battle full of criticism. Once at a chamber of commerce event, she was approached by an attendee about her childcare while on the campaign, being asked “so who watches your kids”? my grandparents didn’t raise me – my mom was home and took care of us” Regardless of the criticism, Juli stands confident in her choice to run for office while being a mother saying, “this is for a greater purpose and a greater reason. It is good for my children [to see me] take this risk – to see their mother pursue her passion and desire.” Outside of the attacks on her childcare, Juli has also been hit on, told her clothing was too inappropriate, and attacked because her hair was “too curly”. As an Indian woman running for office in a county lacking Asian elected officials, Juli hopes to transform the treatment of intersectional woman candidates.
When asked for advice, Juli tells women interested in running for office to “go for it.” She wants to see more women in office and hopes she can help others pursue their dreams. Juli Mathew is running for Fort Bend County Court of Law #3 and will face off in a general election in November.