Wave of Latino candidates bringing more diversity of North Texas politics

Special Contributor

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When North Texas voters head to the polls this May, they will elect more than 100 mayors, city council members, school board trustees and other public officials — including, possibly, the first Hispanic mayor in Dallas history.

Unlike cities with large Latino populations, such as Los Angeles or San Antonio, Dallas has never had a Latino mayor.

Already, the list of hopefuls to replace Mayor Mike Rawlings includes three Hispanic names: Regina Montoya, former head of the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty; Miguel Solis, Dallas school board trustee and president of the Latino Center for Leadership Development; and former Republican representative Jason Villalba, who announced his candidacy this Tuesday.

“These are people with an important political background. … It should be noted in the past we’ve had Latino candidates [for mayor], but never a woman,” said Valerie Martínez-Ebers, director of Latina/o and Mexican-American Studies at the University of North Texas.

“There has been a tremendous change in terms of female leadership. Unlike male motivation — both white and Latino — women run with a political reason focused on helping their communities. Men feel motivated by power and prestige and a desire to advance their careers.”

Dallas mayoral candidate Regina Montoya (right) introduces herself to Blanca Berlanda during a community breakfast.(Brandon Wade/Special Contributor)
Dallas mayoral candidate Regina Montoya (right) introduces herself to Blanca Berlanda during a community breakfast.

Montoya became the first Latina candidate for the job when she announced her bid in November.

“Not only am I the first female candidate here in Dallas, but really there has never been a Latina mayor in any of the main U.S. cities in the history of this country,” Montoya said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News.

Legislative diversity

Montoya worked in the Clinton administration and has been a member of the DFW International Airport board and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

“Not only is Dallas ready for a Latina mayor, we owe it to the city,” Montoya said.

“We owe it to the young Latinas who attend, for example, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, where my mom taught for many years. Or to the 38 percent of children who live in extreme poverty in Dallas,” she said.

Montoya led an unsuccessful campaign in 2000 to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions in Texas’ 5th District.

She recalled that one of her most fervent volunteers was current state Rep. Victoria Neave, now in her second term as a lawmaker but who at the time was a middle school student.

“We women are all in this battle,” Montoya said.

State Sen. Jessica Gonzalez recites the Pledge of Allegiance on the third day of the 86th Texas Legislature in Austin.(Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer)
State Sen. Jessica Gonzalez recites the Pledge of Allegiance on the third day of the 86th Texas Legislature in Austin.

Three North Texas Latinas — Jessica González, Terry Meza and Ana María Ramos — were newly elected to the Legislature in the midterm elections.

That means this year’s Legislature has 32 women, up from the previous total of 29. Female candidates helped the Democratic Party win 12 formerly Republican-held seats.

“I’m very excited about 2019,” Neave said. “We want other young women to realize that they…

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