TURNOUT: Latina Congressional Candidate Dolly Elizondo Hopes to Break Glass Ceiling in Lone Star State
Latin Post presents "Turnout," a series featuring leading politicians, government leaders and advocacy groups discussing the most important issues facing the Latino voting bloc.
Texas has never elected a Latina from Texas to the U.S. Congress, but Dolly Elizondo is campaigning to break that glass ceiling for the Lone Star State while championing the issues of education, health care and immigration.
Elizondo is on the campaign trail to represent Texas' 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, currently held by retiring Democratic Rep. Ruben Hinojosa. Elizondo, who described the congressional district as one of the poorest counties in the country, told Latin Post she's working to expand affordable health and educational opportunities for the prominently Latino district.
Latinos' Political Power
According to Elizondo, the Latino community is not represented well in either legislative bodies of Congress. Recognizing the large Latino population in Texas and especially in the 15th Congressional District, Elizondo acknowledged that the Texan electorate never elected a Latina to Congress, and it has been 20 years since a Texas woman, regardless of ethnicity, was sent to Congress.
"It is very urgent that the Latino community goes out to vote. We could change the landscape in the entire state. Right now, my county -- Hidalgo County -- we're the bluest, most Democrat county in the entire state of Texas ... and it makes a difference in our values compared to the extreme right-wing politician who doesn't want to fund pre-k for our kids, who wants to cut off access for health care for everyone. The Latino vote does make a big difference in Texas and in the nation."
Elizondo credited her mother for engaging her politically, after seeing her fight for free lunch for teacher aides and better wages for extra working hours. But at the time, she still didn't consider becoming politically engaged. Even when she was married at 19 years old, politics still wasn't in mind.
"But when I divorced and when I had all these obstacles facing me, you learn more about discrimination as a woman, as a Latina, as a Hispanic, as a single parent, you start learning these things and my path was to get involved and not become a victim of the things that have happened to me and I think I had that spirit from my mom," said Elizondo, who is currently the only woman campaigning, against several men, for Hinojosa's seat.
Elizondo would get involved in small campaigns, school boards, city council and consistently working behind the scenes. She would become co-founder of the Hidalgo County Democratic Women, becoming its first president, and later defeated an incumbent to be the first woman from Hidalgo County elected as Democratic Party Chair.
And in her current campaign, she's won the endorsements of Emily's List and the National Association of Realtors.
"I'm the only one who's on the ballot who has any national endorsements; I'm the only one on the ballot who's ever won a county-wide race ... I've had a hand in almost every possible experience that a constituent could have: I was that young single parent who had to raise their girls on her own and look for resources; I was the young single parent teacher who went to school at night and paid her way through school; I was the young single parent who didn't have access to health care."
On the Issues
"Our constituents need access to affordable health care [and] affordable education," said Elizondo, noting many seeking higher education have to travel Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, at much higher expenses, due to not having enough degree programs in the district.
Education has been very important to Elizondo's life. She was first married at 19 years old and was set to live life as a wife and mother, but things didn't go as planned as she divorced during her 20s and still didn't complete her education. It was then she enrolled to community college and built her degree to getting admitted for law school. Elizondo would pass on the law school opportunity but her educational journey as a teacher and while completing her Master's degree.
"I am a product of the opportunities that education offers ... it is very important to me and I made it my life goal to make sure that my children have those same opportunities," Elizondo said, adding she wants students to have access to loans without having interest charged to the recipient and for Pell Grants' limits to be raised. "It would be nice to have a free education, that would be something to work towards, for college to be tuition free, but I think we need to start with something like steps towards a bigger goal but just reducing the costs of education is first and foremost something that could be worked on quickly."
Elizondo's immigration platform includes an earned pathway to citizenship, helping undocumented immigrants become involved with the workforce and contribute in the economy while feeling safe in the community.
"Right now, our older generation is retiring and we need to fill that gap with a younger workforce and I think that earned legalization helps with that trend."
Border security is also an important component in Elizondo's immigration platform, since the congressional district shares a border with Mexico. Taking into account that the Rio Grande Valley has the busiest ports of entry in the entire country, Elizondo seeks additional funding for law enforcement and the border patrol to main security. But she admits that it's difficult balance the issue since the U.S. has a lot of trade with Mexico, but at the same time there is need for more enforcement and more customs inspectors to allow trade to flow.
Finally, Elizondo wants to address affordable health care for her constituents. Texas is among the nearly three dozen states to not fully enact the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and yet to develop a state-based health insurance marketplace, but the mother of two wants to see the state fully take advantage of the ACA. While the ACA may not be the perfect health bill, Elizondo wants to further tackle the increasing costs of prescription medicine, including generic drugs.
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