Sunday, April 21, 2024

Latino candidates in North Texas bringing diversity to the state’s politics

When North Texas voters head to the polls this May, they will elect more than 100 mayors, city council members, school board trustees and other public officials, including, possibly, the first Latino mayor in Dallas history.

Unlike cities with large Latino populations, such as Los Angeles or San Antonio, Dallas has never had a Latino mayor. Already, the list of hopefuls to replace Mayor Mike Rawlings includes three Latinos names: Regina Montoya, former head of the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty; Miguel Solis, Dallas school board trustee and president of the Latino Center for Leadership Development; and former Republican representative Jason Villalba, who announced his candidacy Tuesday.

“These are people with an important political background. … It should be noted in the past we’ve had Latino candidates [for mayor], but never a woman,” said Valerie Martínez-Ebers, director of Latina/o and Mexican-American Studies at the University of North Texas. Montoya became the first Latina candidate for the job when she announced her bid in November.

“Not only am I the first female candidate here in Dallas, but really there has never been a Latina mayor in any of the main U.S. cities in the history of this country,” Montoya said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. Montoya worked in the Clinton administration and has been a member of the DFW International Airport board and the MALDEF.

Three North Texas Latinas; Jessica González, Terry Meza and Ana María Ramos were newly elected to the Legislature in the midterm elections. That means this year’s Legislature has 32 women, up from the previous total of 29. Female candidates helped the Democratic Party win 12 formerly Republican-held seats.

While North Texas’ legislative caucus is becoming more diverse, Latino representation in eight city councils — Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Garland, Grand Prairie, Irving, Mesquite and Richardson — is still poor. Of 66 members on these bodies, only six are Latino.