Editor’s note: Evans is the Republican nominee for Texas House District 136. She is a mother of three, a small business owner, and a founding member of Texans for Vaccine Choice. Evans will face off against two-term Democratic incumbent Representative John Bucy III in November. Evans’s website can be found at michelleevansfortexas.com. The Interview took place via zoom on 6/15/22
Garrit: Why have you decided to run for the Texas House?
Michelle: Because I feel like the current representative, whose district I was redrawn into by a couple of blocks, is the epitome of leftist identity politics–which brings no positive change or effect on our community here in Round Rock, Cedar Park, and Austin (just in Williamson County in general). So, while I initially thought I was safe because I was formerly in House District 52 and we chased James Talarico off, I got redistricted. I figured now’s as good a time as any. This year is probably our only chance in the near future to flip this and make it an entirely red district.
Garrit: On that point. You’re running against John Bucy. In 2020 and 2018, he defeated his Republican opponents by around 10% both times. Do you think that this time will be different for you and that you’ll go on to victory in November?
Michelle: I confidently believe so. We are within striking distance. You did mention the 10% difference. This year in our March primary I had one primary opponent. So, there were two Republicans on the ticket and John Bucy on the Democratic ticket. The difference in turnout between the Democrats and the Republicans in this race was within 2%.
Garrit: What do you see as some of the factors that are fueling your run and maybe making this a more contentious race than it previously has been?
Michelle: There’s definitely an upswell in the school/parent community–both in Round Rock ISD and Leander ISD. Both districts are in my house district. We’ve seen an increased interest in school board issues and classroom issues. There’s definitely a lot of concern about home appraisals, taxation, and increased property taxes. Of course, you’ve got the issues that always plagued Texas. So, being Texas, we have the southern border–that’s long been an issue. It’s really ramped up in the last couple of years with 100,000 people coming across the border on any given day. Besides that, I think it’s just being able to talk to people about their everyday issues. What is actually needed in this community? What change do people want to see in this community? Nothing that John Bucy focuses on has to do with tangible change in your home. It has more to do with checking the boxes of leftist ideology.
Garrit: You brought up some issues that I want to talk about. One of those issues being with the ISDs in your district. Of course, we’ve seen in the news a whole lot of issues coming out of those schools. Can you first off go over some very specific issues that you’ve seen of those ISDs? Secondly, how do you plan to address those as a state representative?
Michelle: I think the first thing that has been in the spotlight these past couple of years is the curriculum. Once kids went virtual, during the beginning of COVID, parents really got to see what their kids are being taught and what they’re not being taught. We were disappointed to learn that basic skills are no longer the focus. You know, obviously, bullying is a problem, but does it need to be an ever-present lesson above and beyond maybe an assembly or something of that sort? Instead, these kids are getting these types of lessons–these supplemental programs–on a nearly daily basis. Instead of thinking about math, science, objective history lessons, English, and writing skills, they’re talking about social-emotional learning, mental health, and sexuality. These are things that shouldn’t be in the classroom. Honestly, we can opt our kids into sex ed if we wanted, but they sneak all these other things in through supplemental programming. It taxes the teachers, and it definitely taxes the students. So, curriculum is top of the line there. Outside of that, we have not focused on teacher retention and getting skilled teachers in the classroom who want to do the work for the sake of doing the work. Instead, we have these bloated central administrations with PR people with $170,000 a year positions, police chiefs with $200,000 plus positions, superintendents getting paid $350,000 plus, and teachers remaining stagnant at $50,000. They’re not seeing any meaningful raises year over year. We had educational assistants that were making $12 an hour to deal with the most vulnerable and behaviorally challenged students. So, we’re really not focusing on what we need to focus on. We’re talking about increasing area superintendents and assistant principals and all these things when we have a need in the classroom.
Garrit: What are some specific policies that you would like to work towards to help the schools and solve some of those issues.
Michelle: Definitely need to work on the TEKS. We need to get rid of some of the social-emotional learning requirements that were put in with mental health legislation a couple of years ago. We need to go beyond requiring transparency with just curriculum and require transparency with all classroom subjects and lessons–including any supplemental programs so that parents can see what’s being taught and exempt their children from any particular lesson. We need to repeal the educational exemption for obscenity or obscene materials distributed to minors. I think that that would be a strong start. When you get to the salary issue, the retention issue, and the administration issue, there are some more creative things that I think are worth discussing. We could maybe start capping admin or capping superintendent pay to be at a five to one ratio to teachers instead of seven, eight, or nine to one.
Garrit: Moving on a little bit. Recently, you were part of an event called “Women Leaving the Left.” Are you a former leftist?
Michelle: I’m not. That was an interesting offer to be a part of that event because the name of it was a little bit misleading for me in particular. The other panelists definitely had been on the far left–in fact, they were the Marxist, Socialist, social justice warrior type. I can’t speak for the organizer, but I think the reason that I was put on that panel is that there aren’t a lot of conservative women who also consider themselves to be feminists. There’s not a whole lot of conservative women who consider themselves to be feminists and are outspoken about things like gender ideology and how that is, at its core, a misogynistic ideology that is damaging to women and girls.
Garrit: Can you speak more about what being a conservative and a feminist means?
Michelle: I think it’s very simple. So, in my opinion, feminism is just the belief that women deserve equal opportunities. We don’t necessarily have equal or equitable skills when…we have certain biological advantages and disadvantages, same as men, but I don’t believe in equal outcomes or equitable outcomes. I do believe that women should have agency over their lives and their career choices and equal opportunities when it comes to education, jobs, and whether or not they want to be married, have kids, become a mother, whatever. Where I differ from most traditional feminists is that I am 100% pro-life, and I was the only 100% pro-life person on that panel.
Garrit: Do you see any examples of some unequal opportunity that you see between men and women in Texas today?
Michelle: I mean, I think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that you can get from any woman who feels that they were denied an opportunity and were put in a position in the workplace based on their biological sex. I think that at this point we have achieved a lot of parity, but women are still subjected to sexual harassment at greater rates than men. We can’t deny that there’s a great difference between men and women and how they behave in the workplace. I don’t focus a lot on things like the wage gap. I think that there are a lot of factors that go into the wage gap. Women do have children, they are nurturing, and they take time off to take care of their children. So, there’s a lot that goes into that, but I think just a culture that continues to view women as sexual objects. We’re vessels of gratification, and I think we see that in sex trafficking and sex work.
Garrit: Do you have any personal anecdotes you’d be willing to share?
Michelle: I have experienced what I would consider inappropriate sexual comments in the workplace or inferences towards a quid-pro-quo type of situation with male supervisors. It’s been a very long time since that happened. I spend a lot of time in the service industry; in that industry, there is a lot of back and forth between men and women. There’s a lot of foul language used and there’s dirty jokes. So, when I talk about things like inappropriate language, I’m not really talking about those playful things everybody takes part in. These were more along the lines of comments from a supervisor that made me very uncomfortable.
Garrit: Do you think there’s anything that we can do as a “society” or even the government can do that could address some of these issues?
Michelle: Well, when it comes to the workplace, I think, ultimately, there’s not a whole lot we can do to legislate hearts and minds. All we can do is hope that the more that we talk about things, the more that things are out in the open, the more that culture may start to change. There’s absolutely things that we can do with regard to the physical abuse and victimization of women and girls. We can strengthen and expand our treatment for survivors of sex trafficking. The way that we punish, for the lack of a better word, women who are sex workers, often not by choice, by not criminalizing them and allowing them the opportunity to expunge records for petty crimes that they’re arrested for while in the sex industry so that when they break that cycle and get out, they then have more opportunities to become gainfully employed and not be re-victimized.
Garrit: Moving on to a different topic. Representative Bryan Slayton has recently voiced his intention to file a bill banning drag shows in the presence of minors. What do you think about that?
Michelle: I think that we need to enforce the laws that we have in place and perhaps widen that net. So, we already don’t allow children in sexually-oriented establishments such as strip clubs or adult toy stores. So, acknowledging the fact that a bar or tavern-type establishment can turn into a place such as that and become an opportunity for children to be exposed to sexual material or sexual conduct is important for us to expand that and enforce it.
Garrit: Another issue that came up this last session that’s definitely going to be coming up this next session is the issue of child gender modification. What are your overall thoughts on that issue?
Michelle: It’s an absolute travesty that we would allow this to happen to children. This is irreversible damage that we’re doing to an entire generation, based on a fleeting feeling. For the most part. Parents are often not aware of the long-term consequences. Children are definitely not often aware of the long-term consequences of starting the process in adolescence, starting with puberty blockers, wrong sex hormones, and then ultimately, a medical-surgical procedures to quote-unquote, transition. I think that it’s barbaric. I think that it’s malpractice. And I think we need to put an end to it.
Garrit: Another issue is Democrats chairing committees. Do you support Democrats chairing committees?
Michelle: I think if the majority in the House is held by Republicans, then that’s a mandate from voters to promote Republican values and Republican priorities. It’s nearly impossible to effectively do that when there are Democrats in Chairman positions who can deny placement on committee hearings. It’s just a downstream effect that stalls the good legislation that’s filed each session.
Garrit: Now that you have come out against child gender modification and having Democrats chairing committees if Republicans control the House, how do you think that you would work well with Speaker Dade Phelan. Because Speaker Phelan is in favor of Democrats chairing committees, and he stated a few months back that this next session that the House is going to focus on more “kitchen table issues” when asked about child grooming.
Michelle: Well, I think it’s important to note that I would work with him and not for him, and that there’s a huge difference between negotiation and compromise. At no time would I compromise the idea that children should not be subjected to these procedures. At no time would I compromise that children should not be exposed to sexual material in classrooms. If that means that I don’t pass any sort of bill this session because of House leadership or chairmanships at least I have stuck to what I deem to be important things for the people in my district.
Garrit: Do you plan on voting for Phelan?
Michelle: I could not say at this time. I would have to put great thought into whoever is up for a vote.
Garrit: Are there any other issues that we haven’t really discussed that you think are really important to your district?
Michelle: Right now, you’re going to hear a lot of people focusing on gun control. I’ve made a concerted effort recently to spend more time at Democrat voter’s homes and speak to them about what’s important to them and what’s in their hearts. There is a lot of concern about gun violence, and I acknowledge that gun violence is a horrific problem in this country. But what I tell them each time is that this is an issue of dehumanization. This is not an issue of a gun. This is a mentally unwell generation. These are mostly young males, and they’re being brought up in a world that effectively tells you that if somebody doesn’t agree with you then they’re an “other,” and they’re not worthy of being treated like a human. We’re told that humans aren’t humans from conception, and, at times, humans aren’t humans after birth either. So, we’ve effectively turned a generation of people apathetic. So, I think that that’s the biggest problem that we have. I don’t know how we legislate our way out of it. I wish there was an easy answer to that. But the answer is not to take guns from lawful citizens and law-abiding citizens.
Garrit: There’s definitely been calls from both sides of the aisle. One side might want to focus more on guns. Another side might want to focus more on school safety. What are some ways that you think we can better secure our schools and protect our children in our schools?
Michelle: I think that, particularly, in Uvalde, there’s a lot of unknowns. There are a lot of mistakes that were made. Some of them are egregious, but we still haven’t gotten the full picture yet. The door didn’t lock, and there wasn’t protocol followed in the aftermath. So, in general, I think that each school needs to be hardened. We go through great lengths to get inside a Dell building–you can’t just walk in. I don’t understand why we don’t treat our schools the same way as a government building. As far as safety and security and getting past armed officers, I don’t want people to think that I want anybody who does not want to own or carry a gun to be forced to own or carry a gun. The narrative that’s been pushed out is that we want to arm teachers. That’s a complete misnomer. Do I think that teachers should be able to carry on to campuses and lock their firearm in a safe in the classroom? Perhaps we can talk about that. We can talk about training and psychological testing for that, but we definitely do need to start being more serious about school safety.
Garrit: Yeah, definitely. John Cornyn, US senator of Texas, has recently come out in support of some type of red flag law or red flag system. What do you think about red flag laws?
Michelle: I think red flag laws work until they don’t. It’s pretty quickly that we find out that they don’t work, and that they’re used in a way that we don’t think is appropriate or right. It really comes down to a subjective idea of who deserves to be able to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. To make that a subjective thing is a slippery slope. For the past couple of years, people who have denied wearing masks inside or denied getting vaccinated have been called crazy, have been marginalized, and have been villainized by a lot of people in our society. After two years of being called crazy or fringe or domestic terrorists–like parents speaking up at school board meetings–how dangerous is it to allow that sort of completely misguided notion about somebody to decide whether or not they should be able to exercise their constitutional rights. It’s just a dangerous place to go.
Garrit: Yeah, absolutely. With that, do you have anything else that you’d like to say as we end the interview?
Michelle: Nothing that I can think of. I think you asked some pretty good questions and some difficult questions that I don’t necessarily get on a daily basis. I appreciate that.
Garrit: Yeah. Well, thank you so much. I’m really appreciative of the fact that you would take the time out of your schedule to talk with me.