Sunday, June 16, 2024

Candace Valenzuela, the Latina underdog for Texas House seat picks up momentum

The only Latina challenger for a Texas House seat in 2020 broke her district’s single-quarter fundraising record for a Democrat, surpassing a high achieved 15 years ago, according to preliminary numbers from the campaign.

Candace Valenzuela, a local school board member, is facing a July runoff election against fellow Democrat Kim Olson, a retired Air Force colonel, in the race to replace retiring Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas). The winner of that runoff will face off in November against Republican Beth Van Duyne, a former mayor and Trump administration official seeking to keep the now-swing district red.

Valenzuela, who forced a runoff against Olson in the March 3 primary, says her campaign raised more than $305,000 between January and March. The once-homeless Valenzuela has also racked up big-name endorsements, including former Housing Secretary and presidential candidate Julián Castro, Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and EMILY’s List, an influential pro-choice political advocacy group.

“We’re excited about her. We think she’s a great fit for that district. And she made it into the runoff and we feel strongly that she’s going to come out victorious in the second step of this process,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), the chairman of Bold PAC. Many of Valenzuela’s endorsers took the unusual step of betting on her ahead of the primary; “We think Candace is the best candidate to carry that seat in the fall,” said Benjamin Ray, a spokesman for Emily’s List.

Like campaigns across the country, the fight for the 24th District of Texas has run into an unpredictable obstacle in the coronavirus pandemic. Campaign Manager Geoff Simpson said Valenzuela has taken to almost-daily Facebook live appearances, in the absence of in-person meetings with constituents, a duty that must now be juggled with in-house childcare.

Valenzuela said the crisis has shown the challenges faced by everyday working families. “We need leaders who care about doing the work to serve the working-class people who make our community strong, and not who gets the credit. I’m proud of the coalition we’re building, and I’ll be honored to work as hard for them in Washington as they do every day in Texas,” she added.