Photo courtesy of Joanna Cattanach

Lakewood Heights neighbor Joanna Cattanach is used to sitting on the other side of the microphone. The former Dallas Morning News reporter has switched from asking for interviews to giving them during her run as a Democrat in Texas House District 108, which covers the west half of East Dallas.

Inspired by the election in 2016 and many of the events that followed, the mother of two is motivated to run by issues that hit close to home. She has been active in speaking out against State Bill 4, which requires local law enforcement to verify immigration status, no matter the crime. She has also played an integral role in putting an end to the possibility of a Trump hotel here in Dallas, when she led the community effort with a statement to city hall, an online petition, as well as op-eds. After a press conference alongside City Councilman Philip Kingston, the Trump organization pulled their endorsement, and the developer stopped the project.

House District 108 covers much of East Dallas and the Park Cities, and the seat is currently held by Morgan Meyer. It has been a republican district for all of the 21st century, but Cattanach sees an opportunity in a district that went for Hillary Clinton by six points in 2016.

“Our district has a lot of youth, and has a more metropolitan feel,” Cattanach says. “I am already block-walking and I am not coming across many folks who are happy with what we are getting.”

Cattanach thinks East Dallas isn’t being well represented in Austin. “The incumbent is not representing our whole district,” she says. “He voted for the bathroom bill, voted for SB4, and has continued to vote no for school finance reform. The business community is not happy with the bathroom bill.”

She also sees notes the educational divide between the Park Cities and the rest of the district. “The majority of this district is in DISD and faces low budgets,” she says. “There is not enough money for teachers, and we face the brunt of what happens when politicians don’t do any reform. When the incumbent only represents the Park Cities in Austin, he isn’t representing the whole district.”

Cattanach is passionate about neighborhood issues as well. She is part of the group working to change the name of Lee Elementary, where she will have a kindergartener next year. She is also concerned that the lack of affordable housing in East Dallas will push out low-income neighbors who have long lived here.

“I want to figure out how to preserve our neighborhoods and welcome families,” she says.

Cattanach is now a journalism professor at Eastfield College and the University of North Texas.

Cattanach calls herself “a different kind of Democrat,” and has been shaped by what makes her unique. Unlike most politicians, she has never been a lawyer, and is a former foster child who knows how state policies can play out on the ground.

“I was literally in a courtroom when I was 3 years old,” she says. “It isn’t always about the party, it’s about the person.”

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