Candace Valenzuela is on the verge of becoming the first Afro-Latina to be elected to Congress after securing the Democratic nomination in Texas’ 24th Congressional District on Tuesday.
Valenzuela secured the nomination against retired Air Force Col. Kim Olson. She will face Republican Beth Van Duyne, the former mayor of Irving in the general election.
With support from former presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Julián Castro, and Cory Booker, Valenzuela stands to become the first Black Latina elected to Congress and just the third Latina elected from Texas, according to CBS News.
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Currently, the district is in GOP hands and represented by Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant, who announced last year that he would not be running for reelection.
“One of the things we’re lacking here is representation exactly for those groups, for those groups who are younger or more diverse. It means that we have to have better conversations about what equity looks like,” Valenzuela said during a Wednesday news conference.
“Equity in our schools, which isn’t fully there. Equity in our access to clean air, clean water. In Texas, just like the rest of the country, your ability to access those things can still be determined by your zip code.”
“We haven’t had representation in Congress that understands those struggles,” Valenzuela continued. “The conversations about what equity looks like will be different when we have more diverse representations in Congress. And I look forward to making that happen,” she added.
A mother and an educator, Valenzuela is a lifelong Texan who overcame incredible odds growing up, and she has since devoted her life to fighting for opportunities for others.
The daughter of U.S. Army veterans, Valenzuela was born and raised in El Paso, Texas into a family with generations of military service. According to her website, her great-grandfather came to the United States from Mexico, eventually fighting in World War I. Also, her grandfather fought in World War II.
The offspring of a Mexican American mother and Black father, Valenzuela first ran for her local school board to improve Texas schools, becoming the first Latina and first African-American woman to serve on the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board.
Valenzuela’s family struggled financially after her mother left the military and, for a time, they were homeless. But she never allowed these challenges to weigh her down becoming her high school’s First Distinguished Graduate.
She then graduated from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, on a full scholarship, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college. She went on to become a teacher and also got involved in local politics and ran for office for the first time in 2017. She was elected the first Latina and first African American woman to the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District Board.
She lives in Dallas with her husband, Andy. They are the proud parents of two children: Cleto, born in 2015, and Jacinto, born in 2018.