Claudia Sandoval: Daughter of a Warrior
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
The square-mile city of Cockrell Hill sits surrounded by the City of Dallas but maintains its own municipal structure. Unlike other Texas cities, the Cockrell Hill City Council has five at-large seats plus a mayoral position. These seats are filled by candidates who file in January for a March election, creating a brief but impactful two-month long campaign for elected office. Claudia Sandoval was elected in 2016 to fill Cockrell Hill City Council’s Place 2 at the age of 26, making her the youngest elected official within Dallas County. Sandoval, a Cockrell Hill native, decided to run for office not because she had dreamed of being an elected official, but rather because she felt her hometown needed a leader for infrastructural change. Her journey to public service began in her family home, under the inspiring and guiding will of her mother.
Though Sandoval was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, her family immigrated from Mexico, creating what she called “a Mexican household living in an American society.” Her mother was the oldest of ten siblings and had always stood as the person in her family that everyone turned to for advice. She believes that growing up in a family with a hard-working matriarch who she described as “strong and powerful” left a monumental impact on her sister and herself where education and knowledge were emphasized as invaluable life-long tools. Sandoval says she recognizes her mother as “just a warrior.”
Sandoval had her first political experiences in high school and college when she decided to run for student body positions. Sandoval realized that she wanted to help affect change in a positive way, wherever there was a need. Her experience serving within her student community led to an intrinsic interest in her hometown again, Cockrell Hill. Jokingly, Sandoval recounted a time when her best friend had complained about the terrible condition of the streets within the small town and she responded, “I am going to fix them one day.” Little did she know that passing promise would spark a personal interest in Cockrell Hill municipal government.
After attending countless council meetings, advocating for safer streets, Sandoval felt that the only way she could affect the positive change was to file for a place on the Cockrell Hill City Council ballot. She began creating a platform that focused on the infrastructural changes needed within her community including building a stronger wealth of resources, fixing worn-down roads, and overhauling the current water transportation system to ensure clean water. Sandoval knew she had to lean on the support of her friends and family to win a seat on City Council.
Her campaign for office began with a team of friends willing to help Sandoval rise into elected office. Sandoval recounted Saturday mornings during her campaign, when her mother would cook breakfast for volunteers as they geared up to block walk. She grew a network of individuals and groups eager to assist her electoral journey, including the Latino Center for Leadership Development(LCLD), a non-profit that develops next-generation leaders dedicated to serving the Latino community, where she served in the 2015 Academy Class. It was the help she received from her LCLD that laid Sandoval’s foundational success for her campaign by allowing her to become an effective candidate.
Sandoval believes that anyone is capable to run for office so long as they are determined to work. She recounts never studying public policy in college nor knowing inside information on campaigning for office until she began researching information about her own community. She says that the most important step towards securing political parity is to educate potential female candidates on the process of running. To Sandoval, the process includes figuring out how to gain support from political organizations like LCLD or Annie’s List, learning how to fundraise campaign money, and connecting with mentors to build a strong network of informed voters.
Moving forward, Sandoval hopes to shift the societal view of age, especially in elected office. Though she feels that the voice of women in local office is held equally in Cockrell Hill, she hopes to break the systemic barriers against young candidates wanting to engage with their local government.