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Valenzuela and Gómez could have made history, but to them, it was about representing their community. Photo: Twitter/timesofsandiego.com
Valenzuela and Gomez could have made history, but to them, it was about representing their community. Photo: Twitter/timesofsandiego.com

Candace Valenzuela and Georgette Gomez lose, but make strides for our future

The first Black Latina, and first openly-queer Latina in Congress may still have to wait, but more be following in their footsteps.

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May 27th, 2022

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“Representation matters.” 

It’s the phrase that has garnered widespread use and attention in recent years, but too often it is used to describe generalized diversity to the point of complacency with perceived progress. Relative to the U.S. population, that progress still remains slim.

Yes, there are more women and BIPOC individuals in positions of power than ever before, but numbers still don’t reflect our nation’s body. Still, every year more step forward against the discrepancy, and the establishment’s value in white, male, and rich. 

It’s these trailblazers, whether they fulfill their dreams or not, who are able to impact the lives of those who are watching, and see themselves represented.

Candace Valenzuela
 
Candace Valenzuela narrowly lost her bid for election to represent Texas’ 24th Congressional district.

The battle against Republican opponent Beth Van Duyne came to an end officially on Nov. 10, in a close race that Van Duyne won by a margin of 1.3 percentage points.

Valenzuela could have made history by becoming the first Black Latina elected to Congress, but it’s never been about making history.

Valenzuela’s bid for Congress signaled a larger movement within the nation’s largest battleground state — by size: one of a powerful woman breaking barriers to represent her community, and a story of tremendous odds.

In 2020, Valenzuela found herself part of a blue wave fighting to flip states across the country, and especially in her home state of Texas, she found things aren't the same as they were in 2016. 

“I think four years ago, and even before that, Texans, regardless of their political affiliation, had this sort of resignation that people only voted a certain way,” Valenzuela told AL DÍA in September. “After 2016, after seeing what was happening across the country, that resignation was no longer good enough for Texans.”

She stressed the importance of engaging people about the political process as the key to any run for office.

“That’s critical to any campaign right now, when you have a diverse population of folks, is having folks, from their communities, speaking to their communities about this process,” she said. 

Coming out of Election Week 2020, Texas was closer to flipping than ever before, and that, largely has to do with the emergence of leaders like her, grassroots organizers, and its changing demographics.

Representation is no small thing, and Valenzuela could have made history because of it.  

"The first time I stepped up to run for office, others told me that I couldn’t do it because I lacked gravitas and, as a mother and a woman of color, I didn’t fit the image of an elected official. Even though we didn’t win this race, we’ve forced the gatekeepers of the political process to reimagine who belongs at the table. There is still so much work to be done and I will continue to be a tireless advocate for our schools and all working families across North Texas,” Valenzuela said in her concession statement.

Valenzuela was just margins away from making history. In conjunction with a stellar campaign spanning various months, that’s what it came down to for Valenzuela on Election Day.

Georgette Gomez

Win or lose, this year Georgette Gomez was part of a “rainbow wave” that washed over the nation.

Gomez’s race was to be the nation’s first LGBTQ Latina in Congress.

She faced-off against former Hillary Clinton advisor Sara Jacobs in the race to replace Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53), who has held the seat for two decades.

Although the race didn’t end in victory, she had the experience to take it all the way.

Gomez has served on San Diego’s City Council since 2016, and has been twice elected unanimously as city council president. She has also worked as an advocate for domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors. 

Gomez’ platform ran on Medicare for All, affordable housing, combating homelessness, investing in infrastructure, clean air and water, immigration rights, and funding for her community of San Diego. She also supports gun control and has continuously fought against Trump’s border wall.

If she had made it to Congress, not only would Gomez have been a beacon for fellow queer Latinas who may have shied away from similar positions of power, she no doubt would have been part of the Progressive movement within Congress, to join the likes of the Squad, and newly-elected Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush.

But a loss doesn’t mean Gomez is stopping anytime soon. She still has the City of San Diego to serve, and her community.

“Tonight's results do not define my commitment to building a more just society, I will continue to do the work along with you all. Thank you to all the volunteers, to the community leaders who supported my campaign, and to my family for being on this journey with me,” Gomez wrote on Twitter.

She trailed her opponent by 19 points, with 93% of all votes estimated to be counted.

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