DALLAS (Nexstar) — Once outspoken on GOP politics as Miss Texas, Averie Bishop is running as a Democrat in a competitive district northeast of Dallas, aiming to unseat the longtime Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson.
Bishop announced her bid for Texas House District 112 in late August, months before the November filing deadline. In a campaign launch video, the 27-year-old highlighted her upbringing in North Texas and said she never saw people who looked like her in government or in leadership roles.
When crowned Miss Texas in 2022, Bishop became the first Asian competitor to take the crown pageant’s 85-year history. Her mother emigrated to the United States from the Philippines, and Bishop said she would be the first Filipino American to serve in the Legislature. Currently, she works as a substitute teacher in the northeast Dallas area.
Her presumptive opponent has shattered glass ceilings of her own. Button is the only female Asian lawmaker in both the Texas House and Senate. An immigrant from Taiwan, Button grew up in a 300 square-foot hut with dirt floors and no running water. She said her parents fled once China became a communist nation, coming to America where Button credits her education as a pillar for achieving the American dream.
Stark differences between Bishop and incumbent Rep. Button
While both Button and Bishop’s backgrounds have shaped who they are today, the two women have different perspectives on how race plays a factor in their every day lives. Bishop attributes many of the opportunities she has received to the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program at Southern Methodist University — where she got her undergraduate and law degree.
In a break with tradition, Bishop was outspoken on political issues during the end of her time as Miss Texas. The pageant queen has been critical of a range of policies passed by the Republican-led state — including its near-total abortion ban, lenient gun policies and racial issues. Bishop said the turning point for her was when the lawmakers passed a ban on DEI programs in higher education during this past legislative session.
“[Senate Bill 17] banned diversity and inclusion programs across colleges and universities. And if it weren’t for my diversity and inclusion program at SMU, or in undergrad, I honestly don’t think I would have gone on to law school and run for office,” Bishop told Nexstar.
However, Button contrasts herself starkly with Bishop, describing herself as “appreciative, not angry” of the opportunities she’s been provided as a first generation American.
“I spent years working in the industry, serving the community, across the board, to learn that kind of experience to propel me to really, really make a difference. Once again, it’s easy to complain, but you don’t get the result,” she said. “You got to have the knowledge and the skills and the relationship to make real things happen.”
As a Republican and Democrat, Button and Bishop have their natural policy differences, mostly when it comes to social issues that Bishop has been outspoken on.
“I think it’s really important that there are many women of color running for office on both parties, both sides, right? It’s all about giving options,” Bishop said. “Representation doesn’t just stop when I see someone who looks like me, I want to see someone who stands for the same things that I do.”
Button is reminding her business-friendly district of her accolades during her 14 years in public office, touting her leadership roles and relationships with top Republicans who control the legislative agenda. She is one of three women in the House who hold coveted chair positions on standing committees in the House.
“With that kind of experience, influence and connection, I am able to pass good, reasonable bills,” Button said. “What I can offer is my business, my technology experience and my leadership position in the House and in the community.”
Tapping into the youth vote
If elected, Bishop would likely become the youngest member of the Texas Legislature. She already has a sizable following on social media, with about 1 million followers across multiple platforms, mostly on Instagram and TikTok.
While Bishop notes she hasn’t seen evidence that her followers’ interest in her political videos translates to people voting on election days, she does attribute early fundraising to them.
Social media influencers often do daily vlogs to show what their lives are like — which Bishop has adapted to a regular video series where she documents what it is like to run for public office as a 20-something in Texas.
“I really want this campaign to not only be about education policy, making sure that diversity and inclusion is incorporated into schools, for example, but I want it to be about visibility and transparency,” she said. “I’m pulling back the curtain so that they can see exactly what that process looks like.”
Serving in the Texas House since 2009, Button is no stranger to tough races. In 2020, she won re-election by a slim margin of less than 300 votes in a year that President Joe Biden won her district. But new maps drawn under redistricting made HD 112 redder and Biden would have lost by 1 point.
Bishop said she is hopeful the race will be competitive after Beto O’Rourke won the district in the 2022 gubernatorial campaign. That year, Button won another reelection by 10 points.