May 4, 2023
NDIANAPOLIS—Rep. Victoria Garcia Wilburn, D-Fishers,(above) said being a lawmaker was always a “quiet dream.”
She had the dream for a long time, never telling anyone because the idea of running as a Democrat in Hamilton County seemed almost impossible. In fact, Garcia Wilburn said many people told her it wouldn’t happen, so why even try?
“Something I often heard from my opponent was that a Democrat couldn’t win in Hamilton County, and at the end of the day, I think that voters really wanted a choice,” Garcia Wilburn said, “a choice from somebody who thoughtfully addressed issues and had experience with timely topics over somebody who is playing into a partisan, hyper-partisan narrative.
“So I worked very hard, and sometimes that hard work pays off.”
Garcia Wilburn’s Hamilton County, which includes Fishers, Noblesville, Carmel and Westfield, historically votes red—well, most of the time. In the last two presidential elections, Hamilton County voted in favor of Donald Trump.
In 2022, Garcia Wilburn fought against Republican Fred Glynn for her seat in the House of Representatives. Garcia Wilburn surpassed Glynn by a mere few hundred votes. Glynn was defeated once again in the mayoral election on May 2 against Republican Sue Finkam.
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Dayna Colbert knows the mountain Garcia Wilburn had to climb all too well. But Colbert noticed something different about Garcia Wilburn almost immediately—her desire to know her future constituents.
“She was out talking to them. She is a very accessible representative. Before she was elected, she was out talking to voters, really listening to them and understanding their concerns,” Colbert said.
Keeping this passion isn’t always easy in Hamilton County, Colbert said.
“We have heard in the past that, you know, Democrats don’t win in Hamilton County. But I think that’s just because Democrats don’t know that we’re out here. Since 2018, we have been continuing to build our bench,” Colbert said. “We have offered voters more options for Democrats, and I think that’s really just a testament to people wanting to more proudly proclaim that they’re Democrats, and giving voters a choice really helps them feel that they’re not alone.”
For Garcia Wilburn, her story is something she wants to use to inspire others.
“It’s just important for people to not count themselves out before trying,” Garcia Wilburn said. “And if there’s one thing that people can take away from our win and this session is that hard work gets results. Being able to author a bill and to see it signed by the governor on Monday, it’s just incredible.”
The bill was House Bill 1321, which increases the mental health education that first responders receive during their required training. As mentioned, HB 1321 was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb on May 1.
Outside Garcia Wilburn’s first political position as a representative, she’s an educator, a researcher, a wife and a mom. When not sitting in the House Chamber, Garcia Wilburn conducts funded research at the IU School of Health and Human Sciences.
The stained glass and limestone of the state capitol weren’t new to her, though, due to her history of lobbying for mental health and serving as the past president of the Indiana Occupational Therapy Association.
Garcia Wilburn’s colleague in the House, Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, said it’s been amazing to watch her drive and motivation to listen and learn. Whenever she didn’t know the answer to something in the beginning, Porter said she was never afraid to ask.
“She’s been a breath of fresh air. She really represents her district, and she’s in touch with her district,” he said.
Porter said she has a large community to represent, but she does it well.
“She really does attempt to reflect her diverse community,” Porter said. “She has an ever-changing district. And I think that’s a great opportunity but yet still is challenging.”
What keeps Garcia Wilburn going? Her family, she says.
“I have an amazing life partner. I think behind every strong, strong woman is a really humble man,” Garcia Wilburn said. “He’s been fantastic. He’s been filling up in areas where I can’t devote 110%. He always inspires me and encourages me to do my best and and to live out what I feel like is kind of like a calling.
“You know, my whole life’s work has really felt like it’s led up to this point, and I take it as a privilege.”
She said her three children have also been gracious over the last few months, but they’re excited to have fun with their mom over the summer now that the 2023 legislative session has ended.
“I think my kids have been really patient to this new lifestyle,” she said. “So I’m looking forward to plenty of times in the pool and long walks and giving extra attention and TLC to our pet dog.”
For those who have dreams on the horizon that they’re unsure about, Garcia Wilburn said it’s worth the try.
“I think we should just never count ourselves out because we each have a unique contribution that we can use for the good of our state,” Garcia said. “I just want people to be inspired by the act of not [counting] themselves out before they even give themselves a chance.”