Texas Latinas Making Texas-Sized Waves

Celia Israel, Jessica Cisneros, and Rochelle Garza stand next to each other in professional clothing posing and looking towards the camera

It’s Election Day in Texas

It’s Election Day in Texas

In Texas, everything is bigger - even the elections, where progressives are looking to implement an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality and policies as they face off against their more moderate or conservative counterparts for public office. Enter Jessica Cisneros, Rochelle Garza, and Celia Israel - three progressive candidates looking to switch the historically conservative state to something more modern.

Jessica Cisneros came riding in with the sunrise against Democratic incumbent House Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28), who has held his seat in the heavily gerrymandered district since 2005. Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration attorney endorsed by progressive groups like Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Working Families Party and leaders including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, certainly rocked the boat since she announced her bid for the seat back in 2019.

Though she didn’t win against the anti-abortion Cuellar in 2020, this year is a very different outcome with runoff elections scheduled to be held today, Tuesday May 24th, after the primary election back in March left the Latino-majority district with less than one thousand votes between the two candidates prompting a run-off.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Cisneros for Congress

Cueller losing his House seat could potentially mark a bigger turn of the tide towards electing more progressive Democrats, especially with the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court looming over Texan women. Maintaining abortion access has been elevated as a priorty issue for pro-choice candidates running for public office - and it could be the one that hands progressives the win in Texas House District 28.

Nationally, candidates running on progressive platforms won more elections than their traditionally moderate counterparts.

Rochelle Garza’s bid for Texas Attorney General is based on the same progressive ideals - the 37-year old ACLU attorney successfully fought against the Trump administration’s attempt at blocking a teenager in ICE custody a right to an abortion in JD v. Azar, leading to the creation of the “Garza Notice” that informs teenagers held in immigration custody their right to an accessible abortion. Garza presents a real threat to Republican incumbent Ken Paxton, whose self proclaimed “Tea Party Conservative” identification has held reproductive rights for Texans hostage since his win in 2015 and is currently in his own Republican run-off.

Although the Attorney General candidate has never run for public office, Garza led the Democratic election primary held on March 1 with an impressive 43% of the vote while opponent Joe Jaworski received 19.7%. Despite the clear lead, at least 50% of the vote must be earned by one candidate to win the primary and avoid a run-off.

On this election Tuesday in Texas, it appears that Garza is the clear favorite to win among Democrats, who will then be tasked with running state-wide to potentially take on Republican incumbent Ken Paxton or his opponent, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. The slate will be set when polls close at 7:00pm.

Texas State Representative Celia Israel (TX-D-50) is also making history with her announcement for Austin city mayor. If she wins, she will become the first Latina Mayor of a major U.S. city. Israel has held her seat in the Texas House of Representatives since 2014, making her bid for Austin city mayor one rooted in expanding her effectiveness as a public official and an aggressive housing affordability platform.

As an openly LGBTQ+ candidate, her platform is focusing on increasing the quality of life for Austin residents through transportation, housing, and affordability. As a candidate in a city that has seen housing prices skyrocket along with a large population boom as big tech companies like Google, Tesla, and more build HQs there, her issues are not only relevant but needed at a time when too many residents are being priced out of their homes.

Israel is slated to potentially run against a variety of candidates, mostly notably former Austin mayor Kirk Watson. The filing deadline is August 22, 2022 and the general election is November 8th, 2022.

Photo courtesy of Celia for Austin

With so many excellent candidates, we can only hope the amount of Latinas we’re seeing run for office across the nation continues to grow. With 30 million + Latinas in the U.S., we are still woefully underrepresented, but these three Latinas are helping to forge the path ahead.

If you need help finding a polling location, click here. Remember that Texas Republicans have made voting incredibly difficult so take all your documentation that you have available. For example, for many who just moved to the state and are registered, but don’t have a Texas ID, a U.S. passport is usually one of the only acceptable documents left. These are the 7 acceptable forms of identification in Texas to vote:

Texas Driver License issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)

Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS

Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS

Texas Handgun License issued by DPS

United States Military Identification Card containing the person’s photograph

United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person’s photograph

United States Passport (book or card)

Polls close across the the state at 7:00pm.

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