Candace Valenzuela’s fight for a congressional seat is personal.
Both of her parents served in the U.S. Army, continuing a tradition of military service in her family. Her grandfather served in World War II, and her great-grandfather served in World War I after he emigrated from Mexico to the United States.
But after her parents left the military, her family became homeless. Valenzuela was able to go to college on a full scholarship, ultimately graduating and working in education before getting elected to the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board, an independent school district in Dallas and Denton counties, in 2017.
“I’m running for Congress because the opportunities that allowed me to go from being homeless as a kid, sleeping in a kiddie pool outside a gas station, to become the first in my family to go to college should be available to everyone,” Valenzuela told The Appeal. “But right now, those opportunities are under attack by this administration.”
Valenzuela is running to represent the 24th Congressional District in northern Texas, which includes parts of Dallas, Fort Worth, and the surrounding suburbs. About 45 percent of the district is white, 24 percent Hispanic, 15 percent Asian, and 13 percent Black. More than 90 percent of residents have a high school education, while less than half have a college degree and about 7 percent live below the poverty line.
Valenzuela, who would become the first Black and Latinx member of Congress if elected, is running on a platform that includes raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, providing direct financial compensation to employers to keep workers on the payrolls during the COVID-19 pandemic, extending increased unemployment compensation during the pandemic, ending no-knock warrants and qualified immunity, and increasing access to vocational training.
“Public schools changed my life; they provided the opportunities that allowed me to go from being homeless as a kid to become the first in my family to graduate from college,” she said. “But we need to build new ladders of opportunities for the 21st-century economy.”
Valenzuela is also hoping to turn the district blue for the first time in 16 years. Republican Representative Kenny Marchant, who now holds the seat but is not seeking re-election, won in 2018 by only three points. Valenzuela defeated retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Kim Olson in the primary and will face Republican Beth Van Duyne, a former Trump administration official, in the general election. Politico rates the race as a toss-up.
“Right now, we’re seeing what happens when leaders focus on wealthy corporations instead of working families,” she said. “We need a real change in Washington, and that’s what I’m offering.”