Our old pal Mike Siegel introduced me to Claudia Zapata, who also lives in Austin, but in a different congressional district-- TX-35, another one gerrymandered to deny Austin (metro pop- 2,117,000) the influence it deserves in DC, in this case by packing Democratic neighborhoods into one district, in order to protect conservatives in neighboring districts (like where Mike Siegel and Julie Oliver ran, for example). One of Claudia's staffers described it to me as "a bit of an eclectic mess"-- but filled with "untapped progressive potential. For example, last year TX-35 went strongly for Bernie (30.88%) over the more conservative Biden (19.04%). Unfortunately, in the general election-- in which Biden beat Trump 67.7% to 30.5%-- voters were uninspired and district turnout was 50.8%, roughly 16% below the national average. The current Rep is Lloyd Doggett, who was first elected to Congress in 1994.
TX-35 is a majority-minority district, with a 64% Hispanic population yet has never had a Hispanic, woman, or queer representative. Claudia Zapata plans to change that. She is a former healthcare analyst, labor and health care activist, and proud Tejano. I asked Claudia to write up a brief introduction of herself and talk about some of the issues facing TX-35. If you like what you read, please consider contributing to Claudia's campaign here.
How Does A Young, Brown Tejana Honor Her Community’s Legacy? She Runs For Congress
-by Claudia Zapata
“¿Quien es la mera chingona?” my Abuela Maria would ask me daily as a child. I was taught to always respond with, “yo mera.” My Abuela Nati would always say, “¡tienes que trabajar como un burro!” as she and I picked oranges, lemons, and limes from the citrus trees on her property in the barrio. “Never forget where you came from,” is the most popular phrase used by my tios to remind me to humble and ground myself in my Latino roots.
I am a product of these sayings, of my culture, of my family.
I am a product of the 512 and 956, hailing from Central Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.
I am a proud product of the kaleidoscope of cultures that form Texas’ 35th Congressional District.
My communities are commonly labeled as vulnerable, poor, and minority by those in power who represent us but can’t relate to us. These terms are not just disrespectful; they are designed to keep us marginalized. My communities are the backbone of Central Texas. Our blood, sweat, tears and labor are the foundation of innovation and ingenuity in Texas, but we have been long forgotten by those deciding policies that shape our lives.
The problem isn't us. It's that we're not adequately represented, and I'm here to change that.
My name is Claudia Zapata, and I'm running to represent Texas' 35th Congressional District. Stretching from East Austin to Lockhart, through San Marcos, New Braunfels, and San Antonio, Texas' 35th Congressional District is home to over 700,000 Texans, 64.1 percent of whom are Hispanic, and the median income is less than $37,000, nearly half the average household income for the state of Texas. Finally, 63 percent of the district's population is below the age of forty.
Yet, this district has never been represented by a working-class Tejano.
Many have told me not to run. They’ve told me that this seat is held by an incumbent who is a Democrat, and that is “good enough.” With all due respect, I am sick and tired of people deciding what is “good enough” for my communities. I demand our seat at the table.
The promise of a Blue Texas has taunted the Left for years. The 2018 senatorial race brought so much hope yet, despite a surge in registered voters, the 2020 race crushed that hope. As we look ahead to 2022 and 2024, one thing becomes abundantly clear-- if we want to change Texas, we cannot keep playing the game the way we've always played.
In June 2021, the Texas Democratic Party announced a plan to register 2 million new voters and announced plans to court Latino voters. It’s no longer just about registration numbers. It’s about the candidates running and representation. We need more diverse candidates that represent their communities to get voters excited and make them want to turn out to the polls. We need candidates’ voters can see themselves in and who understand the struggles they face.
I am ready to bring forward legislation that only someone who can relate can bring.
I currently have a list of over 60 policies developed from my lived experience in TX-35 that I am ready to introduce in my first 100 days as congresswoman, including creating a Farm Workers Bill of Rights, helping students from less wealthy areas by ending college entrance exams and addressing FAFSA inequities, incentivizing training for oil/gas industry workers to work on renewable energy sources, implementing access to the internet as a human right, creating a national Tejano museum and creating a pilot program aimed at empowering truck drivers.
I believe that a Representative’s job should be much more than party-line votes for bare minimum Democratic policies.
I am proud of the communities that raised me, and it is about time they get a representative who relates to and fights like hell for them.
Let’s see what happens when the power is truly con la gente. Por usted y con usted.