Candace Valenzuela on her historic congressional race and the significance of Kamala Harris
It’s not just about making history for Valenzuela — it’s about representation, and uplifting women like her.
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“When I win here, I will be the very first Black Latina ever elected to the United States Congress.”
That’s Candace Valenzuela, who could very well make history in November, but she says it’s not about that — it’s about giving back.
“The opportunities that helped me go from being homeless as a kid… at one point living in a kiddie pool outside of a gas station, to the first in my family to go to college, to the first woman of color on my school board — Those opportunities need to be available to everyone,” Valenzuela told AL DÍA News.
And right now, Valenzuela says highlighting these opportunities is more important than ever before because of President Donald Trump and his enablers.
“They don’t understand what it means to have to work two, or maybe three jobs because your health insurance is high, or because you have a preexisting condition,” Valenzuela said.
It’s about having people with a similar background represent you at the highest levels of power, which is why this year’s Democratic National Convention mattered so much.
Yes, there were no doubt missing Latinx voices, but the presence of multiple powerful Black women and Latinas left its mark.
“Watching the DNC over the last few days is something akin to magic,” Valenzuela said.
“It’s just absolutely magical seeing women I’ve identified with for years. They were breaking through in representation in their own rights — whether it be in office or when we’re talking about watching women like Stacey Abrams’ star rise,” Valenzuela said.
She even brought the DNC’s host and others outside the political sphere into the conversation about the wave of representation sweeping the country.
“Eva Longoria, who has been both an incredible actress, and also an incredible activist for Texas. She has had Texas in her mind and in her heart in politics for many years now,” said Valenzuela. “Getting to see her host, or yesterday, getting to see Kerry Washington — not just being in front of the entire country, not just having the opportunity to introduce Kamala Harris or Barack Obama — but doing so with her natural curly hair was absolutely magical for me.”
The nomination of Kamala Harris, Valenzuela added, was not only history in the making, but a powerful symbol of mixed race women in power gaining the visibility that has long been inaccessible.
“We are nominating a woman of color, who, like me, comes from various heritages, various walks of life, a woman who in a lot of ways embodies the American experience. Accepting the nomination for the second-highest position in the land. It’s something that’s very special, as it is also something that is long overdue,” she said. ”
Building a pipeline of success for Women of Color and young voters
Valenzuela also recently teamed-up with Emerge America, an organization serving to uplift and empower Democratic women to run — and win positions in office.
She believes women in positions like herself must provide opportunities for young women, especially women of color, to get involved in the Democratic process.
“My campaign is trying to build a pipeline,” Valenzuela wrote, adding that with the Voting Rights Act, communities would have equitable access to ballot boxes regardless of zip code.
We have to provide opportunities for young women, especially WOC, to get involved in this process. My campaign is trying to build a pipeline. We also need a new Voting Rights Act that ensures communities have equitable access to the ballot box regardless of zip code. #AtTheTable https://t.co/jO3BuV8N3Q— Candace Valenzuela (@candacefor24) August 18, 2020
But Valenzuela’s advocacy online isn’t just about uplifting her own story.
“We’re teaching them how to organize communities — even digitally — during COVID, so that they are able to get folks to the polls.”
It has been largely successful, Valenzuela says, even with young people who are often overlooked in the organizational process, especially those not old enough to vote.
“We had one young man, who is still in high school. He’s not old enough to vote, and he was able to get a whole group of folks from his community, a couple of times, to do Zoom meet and greets. And we sat down and calculated– this one high school student! Organizing his friends and his friends' parents, got 60 votes!” Valenzuela remarked.
“And everyone’s like, well how do we get them to turn out? They’re so lazy! No they’re not lazy, you just never asked for them. You never asked for their input, you didn’t ask for their work, because they’re willing to give both of those things,” she said. “And you should be asking for both of those things — that’s what we’re doing in this campaign.