Aurelia Wagner, 32, is one of three queer women of color running in the Democratic primary for Texas House District 147 to replace retiring Representative Garnet Coleman. She is the daughter of a teacher and a United States Air Force veteran, and she was in the U.S. Navy Reserve herself. She has a bachelor’s degree in public affairs and a master’s in public administration with a concentration in public policy from Texas Southern University. She’s also an award-winning teacher in HISD.
“Setting ethnicity, race, gender identification, or sexual orientation aside, I am the most progressive candidate in this race,” says Wagner. “I am the only candidate of the people running who had the gusto to run against a nearly three-decade incumbent in 2020. [Since then], the other candidates caught wind of Coleman’s retirement and decided to capitalize. I am the only candidate who has spoken out about the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis for recreational use and as a revenue stream. I am the only candidate who is yelling from the rooftops that charter schools and vouchers are going to make greedy lobbyists, politicians, and CEOs even wealthier off the backs of our children. I am one of the only candidates who does not have ulterior motives for the establishment or corporate Democrats.”
Besides legalizing cannabis and school funding reform, Wagner is passionate about public-safety issues.
“Public safety and criminal justice reform will be one of my top priorities, with an emphasis on reducing the number of incarcerated people in Texas jails and prisons,” she says. “The legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use, a billion-dollar industry, could be the answer to paying for much-needed social services like better funding for public education, reducing student-loan debt, free higher education, affordable housing, and healthcare, to name a few.
“I will work to improve funding to our under-resourced school system. We need to hold charter schools accountable to educate all the children charged in their care. Charter schools receive thousands of dollars per student, and oftentimes—after the October 1 funding date—they expel students who are ELL, special education, and/or have behavior concerns, leaving public schools with the task of educating those children without adequate funding. I want excellent schools for all our students, not just the chosen few. Many of my opponents have track records of supporting charter schools, and entertain the idea of voucher programs. This way of thinking just puts a Band-Aid on a broken leg.”
Another pressing issue for Wagner is health care.
“I know health care is a human right, and I believe in a person’s right to accessible reproductive health care,” she says. “In Texas, Republicans have stolen a person’s right to have a safe abortion, and we have some of the highest rates of uninsured people in the country. I will fight to restore our right to reproductive choice and expand Medicaid in our state, while pushing our federal leaders to bring about real holistic health by implementing health care for all.”
Wagner and her partner, Alycia Marie Haynes, have been together for five years, and they share a 2-year-old dog, Albus Dumbledore, and a turtle, Chester, who washed up at their front door after a storm last year. They share a love of the outdoors and visiting national parks with their dog in tow.
“I love riding my bike along the Columbia Tap Trail [through Third Ward] on the weekends, and going to bars and clubs in Montrose and on Almeda,” she adds.
Wagner pledges to be a fierce advocate for the community if she is elected.
“I will speak out against those who try to oppress and discriminate against people in the LGBTQ+ community,” she says. “I will work to ensure that economic opportunities are allotted for minority, women, and LGBTQ+ owned businesses. I will continue my work with Pride Houston, where I served as chair of the scholarship committee, and organizations like the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus to promote inclusive policies, battle discriminatory laws, and promote pride in our community.”
For more about the candidate, see aureliawagnerfortexas.com.