As we are just a few weeks away from the 2020 elections, eyes across the state of Texas have been on the congressional election in District 24. The Democratic nominee running to fill this vacant seat is Candace Valenzuela, a woman of color with a deep passion for education. Through her formative years, she was not the easiest for her or her family. She found her consistency and second home through her schooling.
Candace was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. In her early childhood, Candace and her family experienced homelessness after her mother left the military, even living in a kiddie pool outside a gas station. Candace recounted time spent living in shelters, trailer parks, living on food stamps. Still, through all of this, she found a second home in school, thanks to her mom’s effort to keep her schooling stable in her life. This led to Candace being the first in her family to graduate from college and led her to run for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch School Board, just north of Dallas, where she served for two years before running for Congress.
Candace attributes her passion for public service to her family, who make up many generations of veterans. She said their service to our country’s armed forces inspired her to serve our country in some capacity. Her passion for serving was also coupled with an experience she had at the age of sixteen. She had a friend who was killed in a domestic violence incident in part due to a law that, at the time, deprioritized 911 calls regarding domestic violence. Candace and her friends applied for a permit and organized a protest and spoke out about this law and how it resulted in the loss of her friend. She continued her government interest through college at Claremont McKenna, where she studied Government and interned in Washington, D.C. Once she graduated, she began taking several jobs and working in education to help children with learning disabilities. This experience further confirmed for her the importance of investment in public education. She began her involvement in local politics by showing up for local meetings and offering her support to elected officials in office at the time. That was when she was approached and asked if she would run for the school board. When she was initially asked, she honestly believed that she was not the person to run; she had a young son and did not picture herself running, but after reflecting, Candace decided that she would run. She ended up winning that election against an 18-year incumbent.
Candace also demonstrates that you can be a wife, mother, and still run for office. She attributes her success as a full family effort that takes sacrifices from all involved. She reflected on the time when she first decided she wanted to run for Congress. She was 8 months pregnant at the time, but her husband assured her that this was precisely what she was meant to do. She cited organizations, like Vote Mama, as one of the organizations that have helped her with the linguistics of running for office as a mother. Candace shows our state that being a mother while campaigning can be accomplished.
During our interview, I asked Candace what her most significant accomplishments has been in her career thus far. While it was difficult for her to pick just one achievement, this only demonstrates the changes she has made for her constituency. She helped give access to free lunch for children of color in her district, she defended LBGTQ+ protections for students, she fought for safeguards ensuring that civil rights be taught locally and prides herself on using tax dollars back into the district to pay teachers. These accomplishments just begin to scratch the surface of ideas that Candace will continue to fight for if elected to Congress in November.
Candace truly demonstrates what it looks like when a mother, a woman, and a person of color run for office. When asked what advice she would give to other women wanting to run for office, she said to know exactly what you are fighting for. Wanting to have power is not what will get you there, but instead, go in knowing what you want to accomplish. Candace’s firm understanding of what she is fighting for has brought her this far in her political career. It has inspired many to support her in her Congressional campaign.