Freshman Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, says she is committed to focusing on the “meat and potato issues that affect people’s daily lives.” Van Duyne was the first female mayor of Irving, Texas, from 2011-2017. Now, she says, she’ll draw on her experience in local government to listen to the needs and concerns of Americans and take action.
Van Duyne joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to share her personal journey to political office, why she is so committed to the pro-life movement, and how she intends to push back on the far-left agenda of progressive colleagues.
Plus, Lyndsey Fifield, Heritage Foundation social media manager, joins the show to talk about pregnancy and preparing for motherhood. And as always, we’ll be crowning our “Problematic Woman of the Week.”
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to be joined by Rep. Beth Van Duyne of Texas. Congresswoman, welcome to the show.
Rep. Beth Van Duyne: Thank you so much. I am very pleased to be here. It’s been an interesting month, so glad to be here today.
Allen: Yeah. Well, we’re very, very glad to have you. It has been a very interesting month, a very interesting beginning to your start in Congress, congratulations. We’re so excited to see that you are forging ahead. It’s just wonderful to see leaders like yourself take on these positions in Congress.
If you could, just talk a little bit about how you originally got interested and involved in policy and politics, and then ultimately, why you decided to run for Congress in 2020.
Van Duyne: I got involved in policy, well, in politics, just by getting involved in my community. So, I grew up in an Air Force family. I was born in upstate New York, moved around. I went to Cornell, undergrad. I came down to Texas, got married, had kids.
And when my first daughter was born, her first year, she had nine surgeries and we used to go to the park that was in the neighborhood and she’d always have to cover her eye.
I asked if there’s any way that we could get shade. And before I knew it, I was the chairman of our parks department, the chairman of the parks committee. And I got a bunch of the moms together and we ended up raising several hundred thousand dollars and building a park.
And that’s just kind of how it started. Just taking one piece at a time.
Then a few years after that, we had a zoning case that was going to affect our neighborhood and our community. And I got involved, speaking with our council representative at the time.
He was not exactly what I would call professional or sensitive to what some of our issues were. So when the time came for him to be reelected, I was going to support anybody who was interested in running, but couldn’t find it.
So with a 2- and a 5-year-old in tow, I threw my name on the ballot and I talked to five people and I asked those five people for their support and they [gave] me five more people. I talked to those five people and asked for five more people. And even though I got spent 8 to 1, I won the election.
Irving, Texas, is the 92nd-largest city in the country. We’ve got seven Fortune 500 companies and the most diverse ZIP code in the country.
I was on the City Council there for six years and then decided that I was going to spend more time with my kids. But I was talked into running for mayor a year later and became the only female mayor that Irving has ever had and worked on a ton of issues, became very involved in the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
When President [Donald] Trump won, I was asked to join his administration and I worked for [Housing and Urban Development] Secretary Ben Carson for two and a half years on issues affecting housing and sustainability, and making sure that people were breaking through poverty and generational wealth and the ways of being able to achieve the American dream. So that’s kind of what’s brought me here today.
Allen: So neat. I love that really, actually, all stared with your kids. That you saw, “Oh, we need shade at our parks because that’s a need of my daughter.”
Van Duyne: I mean, that’s what kind of got you brought into the community. And so whenever there [were] community issues, mine was one of the first phones that rang.
And I think when you get involved in that and you are a public servant, people respect it, they identify it. And you’re the first to be called. Busy people are there ones who get called when things need to happen. So it has been a privilege, it’s been an honor to do it.
Allen: Well, when you think about the America that you do want your kids to inherit, how does that affect the issues or the policies that you choose to support or advocate for?
Van Duyne: … My kids are both in college now, but when they graduate, I want them to be able to get a job. I want them to be able to buy a home and be in my community. There’s things like, are they healthy? What are the health care issues?
And I have way too much experience on that side, dealing with a daughter, again, who had nine surgeries, making sure that it’s affordable, making sure that it’s high quality, making sure that people have access. And I think it’s those meat and potato issues that people want you to work on in government and in Congress.
Transportation: When you get in your car, are you going to be stuck in traffic? Will you be able to fly places that you need to fly in a reasonable amount of time and be treated respectfully?
Job opportunities is one, opening up our economy and making sure that people have access to schools and that the kids, we’re not losing an entire generation, that are home and not being able to get together socially, which is so important.
So I think it’s really looking at the meat and potato issues that affect people’s daily lives. And having come from the local government, you don’t really realize how much of every day is regulated and making sure that you still have an ability to have those individual freedoms and personal responsibilities that all of us, I think, at times take for granted.
Yeah, my kids were at the heart of it. Every single vote I take, it’s not just me looking in the mirror, but it’s also, what are they going to think at the end of the day and how is this going to look?
There’s a lot of thought that goes into it, but I just want to make sure that we’re leaving a better place for them. They’re not going to be having so much debt over their heads that they don’t get to experience a lot of the joys and successes that we have.
Allen: I think that that is so critical to have that perspective coming from the local level.
As you’ve talked about, you served on the Irving City Council as a representative. Then you served as mayor of Irving. That’s a really big deal to understand how, at the local level, those policies really do influence our day-to-day lives.
I think that’s something that the nation has experienced during COVID-19, is realizing, “Wow, my local leaders have a really huge impact, maybe a lot larger than I realized on my day to day on how I’ve lived my life.”
So how [is] that perspective really influencing now the way that you want to lead in Congress?
Van Duyne: I am anxious to be able to get together at the Mayors Caucus, people who’ve worked at the local level, because a lot of these issues we force to be political and we force to be partisan, but they don’t need to be. And I guess maybe I’m spoiled because as mayor, I didn’t have a “D” or an “R” next to my name.
What I did find is that people that you’re working with today, that you’re fighting with on an issue, tomorrow, they may be your deciding vote. So it’s to concentrate more on the policies and less on the party and more on the people and less on the politics. And that’s what I have always focused [on]. And get up and wipe yourself off because you’re going to have another fight tomorrow.
I always told people, they need to vote in local elections and think carefully about who you’re voting for, make sure that you’re engaged in the process because when I was mayor my cellphone number was pretty much available to anybody. They knew where I shopped, they knew where I worked. They knew where my kids went to school.
And those were conversations that you had to have. You’re very accountable to your community. And I think as Congress members we sometimes … might lose that. You come out to D.C. and you get lost up here, but it’s being back in the district as much as possible.
And I’m really excited. I just got put on transportation infrastructure in small business.
While we were home last week, unexpectedly, we were supposed to be in Congress, but unexpectedly, the majority canceled last week. So we found ourselves in the district and we worked together on getting a transportation round table set up and meeting with the stakeholders that are in the district before I ever even had a committee meeting.
What’s important to you, what do we need to work on? I guess having had those relationships for over 20 years is really beneficial, it’s all about the relationships and the same thing with small business.
We contacted chambers that I’ve been engaged in and a part of for the better part of 20 years, and we said, “What are the small businesses that we should reach out to?” And some of them I knew, some of them I didn’t. But it’s all about the relationships and building. And I think at a local level, you realize that because you live right there. And sometimes we tend to forget about that, the farther up in government we go.
Allen: So, so critical, those relationships. That does determine everything on so many levels.
Now, I know one issue that you are personally really, really passionate about is the pro-life issue. Just last Friday, we had the March for Life and you sent out a tweet, just talking about how this is a deeply personal issue for you. Why is life something that you’re so passionate about?
Van Duyne: I grew up in a medical family. My dad is an OB-GYN. My mom was a nurse before she went to law school. And you grow up with those types of images around you.
But when I was married, I lost my first child. And it was one of the more difficult things that you can live through. And you realize how impactful that is on your life, moving forward.
And we get into these conversations where sometimes it just doesn’t seem like that’s a value and you never know how much that’s going to affect you, how powerful that can be when you’ve lost a child. Sometimes it won’t hit you until years later. And I don’t think it’s something that we could ever discuss lightly.
So it is very personal to me and I can look into other moms’ faces, who’ve had children, they’ve never gotten to hold and tell them …
It is a powerful issue, when you think about how much of a miracle being able to give birth is. And I think it’s something that we need to cherish, it’s something that new we need to respect. And it’s something that we need to prioritize.
I have no problem at all talking to others from the other side of the aisle who may disagree and keeping it professional, but also being very passionate.
Allen: Yeah. That’s so important to have those conversations across the aisle.
You’ve mentioned some of the policies that you’re really passionate about, interested in pursuing in your time in Congress, but if you would just share a little bit about what is at the top of your agenda list for these next two years.
Van Duyne: It changes, we are reacting to what’s happening in our communities. One of the things that we’re going to be looking at is the voter integrity, moving forward and working with community leaders on ways of making sure that we are instilling in people that they have a trust in their vote. That one vote counts, that their voice counts.
We’re also looking at opening up the economy. I mean, we’ve just seen the last 10 months and what it’s done to people’s savings, people’s businesses. Folks that had put everything into a small business and have had it shuttered through no fault of their own.
We need to make sure that we’re getting people employed again, giving people job opportunities, we’re working on health care, and in ways of making sure that people can afford it, that it’s personalized. It’s not one-size-fits-all government solutions.
And also, national security. I mean, obviously, we are looking at threats from China, from Iran, from North Korea, and we need to make sure that we are focused and keeping us safe for the next generation. Because if we tackle all these budget issues, and yet we find ourselves at the losing end of a cyberwar, we didn’t even know that we were engaged in, that will be detrimental moving forward.
So there’s a lot of things that we need to make sure that we’re prioritizing, but it’s really the meat and potato issues that most people don’t find sexy. Building a new road, it’s not something that you’re going to go, “Yeah, I did that.” But it is so critical to people’s lives.
So those are the things that we’ve talked about, that I’ve heard it straight from my community’s mouth. That’s important to them. And those are the issues that I need to champion and advocate for while I’m here.
Allen: Absolutely. I love that you say that, I think it is those meat and potato issues because we get so focused on kind of these few, but really, it’s those common, everyday things like infrastructure that affect our everyday lives.
Congratulations to you on just being appointed to the infrastructure committee. That’s a topic that’s so important, but I don’t think it gets quite the attention it deserves. Could you just talk a little bit about your role on that committee, what you all do, and how you’re excited to really push a positive agenda there?
Van Duyne: Well, you’re kind of catching me off guard because I haven’t been to a committee meeting yet. So our first committee meeting will actually be on Thursday and we’ll find out more.
My background is in transportation, obviously, as a mayor, it’s the fourth-largest metroplex in the country. Dallas-Fort Worth, DFW Airport is the number one economic driver in the state. And that’s right in all the district highways, roadways, water infrastructure, it’s one of the fastest-growing areas in the country.
We need to make sure that we’re preparing for that increase in population for the future. And getting water is going to be really important. Making sure that we’ve got access to transportation is a meat and potato issue and also figuring out how we’re going to pay for it.
We can come up with all these wonderful ideas, but if we can’t figure out how we’re going to actually pay for them, they’re going to remain just as part of a book and part of a plan.
And so many of the highways that I remember discussing, going to one of the openings when I was in mayor, opening up a bridge, and it had been on the plans literally for 35 years, because I couldn’t find out how to pay for it. And then having to work with all the local elected officers, to make sure that they had access to some of the properties. So these things take time.
Relationships are important, but you know when you’re doing a good job, when you’re not getting phone calls, when people can turn their water on in the morning to take a shower and it’s clean water and it works, when they get to work without incident. You’re doing your job when you’re not getting calls.
But it’s my job to get out and talk to people. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do in the district, is having those kinds of conversations, creating as many events that people feel comfortable attending. As many events, even virtually, that we can to make sure that we’re listening.
Often, elected officials, politicians speak all the time and they just don’t listen enough. And I think that’s been one of my focuses, is making sure that we’re giving people opportunity and having as many events as we can while we’re hearing what’s important to them, their concerns, their priorities, and that is really what we’re focused on.
Allen: I know that one of the issues you focused on while working at the state level in Texas was illegal immigration. And you recently tweeted that you were really glad to see that a federal judge did block President [Joe] Biden’s 100-day deportation ban. Why is immigration such an important issue to you?
Van Duyne: Again, living in the fourth-largest metroplex in the country, I have seen the damage that happens in our streets, in our neighborhoods, in our schools—through drug cartels, through gangs, through sex trafficking, and human trafficking.
These are things that affect everyday Americans. And we can act like they don’t exist because it’s politically expedient to say we’re going to do one thing. But if you look at the actual incidents of people who’ve been victims of [insensitive], irresponsible border patrol, it’s bad. …
One of the things that I had done on City Council and as mayor is we had worked very closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And people who are committing crimes in our city that were caught, that were found not to be in the country [legally], we worked with ICE and have them deported.
As a result, we took a lot of flack. Politically people came after us and they called us all sorts of labels. But what we did notice was almost immediately our crime rate in our city dropped, it plummeted.
For nine years, we had the lowest crime rate in our city’s history and we became the fifth-safest city in the country and far from people not wanting to live there because of the labels that people like New York Times and CNN were throwing at us. We found that we had the largest economic growth period in our city’s history and more population growth than we’d ever seen before.
People want to live in safe communities. They want to live where they feel comfortable that their kids can go to school and focus on getting an education and come home.
That’s what we need to think about, what we’re doing and the idea that we’re just going to announce, “We’re not going to be enforcing our laws,” I think is opening up a pathway that’s very dangerous in the future.
And while I want to work with a new administration, I’ve been very vocal on that. I am also not going to shy away from being critical of policies that they have that are dangerous for our future.
Allen: You have been very vocal about wanting to work across party lines, wanting to work with President Joe Biden. You actually sent a letter to the president on Inauguration Day, saying, “Let’s work together where we can.”
And we’ve heard President Biden talk a lot about unity and bring that message of unity to the American people. But when it comes to action, it feels like there’s a disconnection there.
For example, we have this $1.9 trillion COVID spending bill that the president has put forth that really has not gained support from Republicans. What are your thoughts on the spending bill?
Van Duyne: Well, I think talk is cheap and saying that you want to work and then not even allowing people to even have a voice at the table is not unifying. And it’s definitely not working across the aisle.
When the Keystone pipeline came down, canceling that—I live in Texas and you think about all the energy jobs that are created from that and immediately the destruction that’s going to have on our economy, on people’s lives.
The $1.9 trillion, yes, we need to have a package to help the small businesses and other folks around the country that have been damaged by no fault of their own, but that needs to be targeted to those people who need it the most, it needs to be temporary.
These are not long-term plans that we’re putting forward because, hopefully, once this vaccine is out to more people, … we’re going to start to see a short term in this, but it also needs to be timely.
And you think about how many months that we’ve already lost just fighting politics—sticking things in a bill that have nothing to do with helping those folks at home, those small businesses, those working families that need it. I think people tend to take advantage of a situation, that’s what I’ve seen.
I really want to work with this administration. I want to work with people across the aisle, but we need to all be at the same table.
You had 10 senators who went over to the White House and tried to work on a bill and not one dime was changed from the plan.
So you had the voice that, “Hey, we want to work, but you know what? We’re not going to compromise at all.” And that, to me, is not working in good faith. I’m optimistic that as we move down the road, that we will have opportunities to partner, but I have not seen it yet.
Allen: Certainly hope the same, that there will be those areas of partnership, that we’ll see that increasingly. And that those words of unity will turn into action.
You have been vocal about the fact that you’re not going to shy away from pushing back against those really radical, far-left agenda items—things put forward by members of the “squad” and so forth. Talk a little bit about that. Just how you are going to really hold your ground as a conservative woman in Congress.
Van Duyne: I was the only woman that was on City Council, when I was mayor. You have to have a loud voice.
Nobody pushes you to run for these things. All of us fought to be able to get here. And as a result, we have to be accountable. We have to be responsible. We need to be strong. We need to be that voice in Congress for the hundreds of thousands of people that we represent.
And if you’re not willing to do that, you’re in the wrong job, but you also have to realize that no matter what you do, you’re going to be criticized. We live in a very polarized society right now, 50% of people believe in one thing and 50% believe in something else.
So any decision that you make, half of your populace is going to be very critical of that, but understand why you’re doing it, who you’re doing it for. Make sure that you are always professional in the way that you conduct yourself, but also very clear.
I was on the losing end of a number of votes, I understand. But at the end of the day, I can defend every one of the votes that I’ve taken. And I think I need to do that moving forward.
We are not always going to be on the same side, even our party’s going to have disagreements, but let’s be respectful to one another. Let’s support one another and make sure that we’re doing what’s best for our district and for our country. And I think that’s what people expect and that’s what I’m here to perform.
Allen: Congresswoman, before we let you go, there’s one question that we love to ask all of our first-time guests on this show. We get so many different responses to this, but that is, do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes or no? Why or why not?
Van Duyne: So, can you define that?
Allen: That’s up to you to define. That’s what we love about this question, is everyone kind of defines that word a little bit differently and some go much more with kind of that original interpretation of a little bit more radical. And others say, “No, I want to reclaim that word to be more of the traditional term of feminist.”
Van Duyne: I consider myself an independent. I’m strong-willed, strong-minded. I’m a thoughtful, professional individual that happens to be a woman. I’m not falling to victimology. I don’t want to be treated differently. I want to be respected for what I bring to the table. And so if, that makes me a feminist, then sure.
I just don’t want to be treated differently. I want to be treated for the strengths that I have and the conduct that I show. And quite frankly, I do that to everybody. I think, if we stop putting each other in these different buckets, we’ll all get along so much better.
It’s a great question, it’s a great question. You could probably, like, show your age by answering that question, too.
Allen: No, that’s perfect. That was a great answer. It’s always just interesting to hear the different responses that people have because it’s a broad term and people interpret it very, very differently.
Congresswoman, thank you for your time today. Thank you for your leadership. You are really setting such an amazing example for so many individuals across the country, how to lead well and how to lead from a place of really holding your principles, your morals, your values. So thank you so much for your time today, we so appreciate it.
Van Duyne: Absolutely. I appreciate it. And anytime you guys want me on, just let me know.
Allen: Thank you so much.