Candace Valenzuela wins, is now one step from history as first Afro-Latina in Congress
Democrats are now closer to flipping the longtime G.O.P. stronghold, Texas District 24, blue.
With a stunning 20- point lead ahead of runoff election opponent Kim Olson, Candace Valenzuela is closer to securing her congressional seat, potentially joining Ritchie Torres (D-NY) to become the first two Afro-Latinos ever elected to Congress.
“I’m proud to announce that tonight, our grassroots coalition has won and I am the Democratic nominee for Texas’ 24th District,” Valenzuela wrote on Twitter.
“I will never forget those of you who knocked doors, made calls, donated your hard earned money, and spoke with your family and friends about our race,” she continued.
I’m proud to announce that tonight, our grassroots coalition has won and I am the Democratic nominee for Texas’ 24th District.
I will never forget those of you who knocked doors, made calls, donated your hard earned money, and spoke with your family and friends about our race.
— Candace Valenzuela (@candacefor24) July 15, 2020
Olson had previously won Texas’ primary election on March 3, winning 40.9% of the vote to Valenzuela's 30.4%.
This drastic shift in voter turnout and preference is a testament to the power of the movement Valenzuela created, and that no one should underestimate the power of candidates — particularly women — of color.
Valenzuela will now move on to the general election in November, where she will face Republican Beth Van Duyne, the former mayor of Irving, Texas in the general election.
If elected, she will be the first Black Latina in Congress, only the third Latina to represent Texas in Congress, and her Congressional District would flip from Republican to Democrat.
Texas is projected to be one of the biggest battleground states in the nation heading into Election Day. The rising influence of Latinx voters and the increased momentum of progressive campaigns — and big wins, like Valenzuela’s — demonstrate there is real interest in shaking up the establishment.
While Olson campaigned on her 25 years of military experience as a former Air Force fighter pilot, Valenzuela focused on her connections to her community and her lived struggles and experiences.
Her campaign has made it clear she has overcome tremendous challenges in her journey to becoming a candidate for her district. From poverty, homelessness, and to becoming the first person in her family to go to college.
Her campaign immediately gained the attention of prominent groups and politicians, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Julián Castro, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Congratulations to People First candidate @candacefor24 on her historic primary victory in Texas’ 24th congressional district! I can’t wait to see Candace flip this district in November and fight for a better future for all Texas families in Congress,” wrote Julián Castro on Twitter.
Congratulations to People First candidate @candacefor24 on her historic primary victory in Texas’ 24th congressional district!
I can’t wait to see Candace flip this district in November and fight for a better future for all Texas families in Congress. pic.twitter.com/mqWt8FwhSV
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) July 15, 2020
Valenzuela’s platform runs on tackling income inequality, affordable healthcare, public education, criminal justice reform, affordable housing, gun violence, and immigration, among other issues.
During a Twitter livestream, Valenzuela made it clear she knows these issues aren't a problem caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Rather, they have been around for years, the virus only intensified and forced the mainstream to finally take notice.
“Candace’s victory is historic but it’s also a sign of the times. She overcame challenges that few in Congress can even begin to fathom, and she’ll fight for working families from a first-hand vantage point,” The Latino Victory Fund said in a congratulatory statement on Valenzuela’s win.
She is an example of the need for more leaders in Congress who have a deep understanding of issues at the root of her people-powered campaign, not just using topics as talking points.