Why I'm Supporting Linda Chavez-Thompson for Lt. Governor

Ed. Note: Early voting for the Democratic primary begins Tuesday, February 16 and runs through Friday, February 26th. During early voting, you can vote at any early voting polling location in Travis County. The Democratic primary will be on Tuesday, March 2nd. Click here to find your Travis County election day polling location. I will be posting my endorsements for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and select contested downballot races in Travis County throughout the week.

Nine years ago, when I made the decision to graduate from high school a year early and not go to college, I was told -- not once, but several times; sometimes daily and often by strangers -- that I was making a terrible mistake. One person told me, “Have fun flipping burgers the rest of your life.”

If someone had thought at the time that I was taking the easy way out, then they would have been wrong. In fact, I’ve spent the last nine years finding out for myself just how difficult the path of most resistance can be. Five of them were spent freezing cold, literally shoveling horse’s manure, getting bitten and stepped on, thrown to the ground, injured, on the road, and earning a crash course in what it really means to work in the horse business. The last four have been about shaking off insecurities and proving to myself -- and other -- that what is worth learning in this world is rarely found in a classroom but in real life. Every morning when I wake up and go to work, the expectations someone else might have had for me cease to be important. What’s important are the expectations I have for myself.

When Linda Chavez-Thompson, a Democrat running for Lieutenant Governor of Texas, dropped out of high school to work full time in the cotton fields because her family needed the additional income, she wasn’t making a choice. There are millions of people in this state who drop out of high school and miss out on college not because of some desire to pursue their passions, or to prove a point, but because they simply didn’t get the opportunity to choose otherwise.

But the expectations our state has for those people -- those who never got an opportunity to seek higher education -- aren’t any different than the expectations were for me when I decided I wouldn’t be going to college. Dropping out of high school, in this day and age, is a career death sentence. “Have fun flipping burgers the rest of your life.”

Linda Chavez-Thompson, however, doesn’t buy into those expectations. She has spent her lifetime expecting more for herself and others. When she was forced to drop out of high school, she could have stopped expecting a better life right then and there. But she didn't. She was hired as a secretary at a laborer's union and she spent the next 28 years working in the labor movement, putting her bilingual skills to work in Texas on behalf of working people.

She expected fair wages for those who had resigned themselves to getting nothing. She expected opportunities where there had ceased to be any. And she expected open doors when others shut them in her face. Through those expectations, Linda Chavez-Thompson opened them all.

She saved the jobs of 33 community college workers when they blew the whistle on financial abuses being made by three trustees. She found emergency drivers to provide cover for workers on a wildcat strike, driving one of the trucks herself. And she continued to learn, taking organizational classes in her spare time and speaking on behalf of Spanish-speaking members at union meetings. She became so well-versed on labor related issues that she was mistaken for a lawyer at one hearing. And in 1995, she was elected and served for 12 years as Executive Vice President of the National AFL-CIO, becoming the first woman in that position and attaining the highest position ever achieved by a Hispanic in the labor movement.

As tuition costs soar, Texas students are expected to fend for themselves. Linda will expand financial aid to ensure that students from middle class families aren't being priced out of a college education and push for incentives to place more math and science teachers in the classroom. Too many Texas children are still without health insurance. Linda will expand CHIP enrollment criteria to allow the maximum number of families under federal law. And while Republicans expect Texans to look away while our economy suffers, Linda understands that jobs are critical to our economic development, and will strengthen teacher-training programs to capitalize on the fact that 9 of the top 25 fastest-growing jobs in the state are in education.

As a Democrat, as a woman, and as a Texan, I'm ready to elect a Lt. Governor who will fight on behalf of Texas's best interests, not its special interests. I expect my elected officials to expect more, and I expect them to do more. And while most of us here might not know anyone who had to work their way up from nothing to something, these people exist -- and exist increasingly -- in the state of Texas. Linda understands that -- because she's one of them. Isn't it time our elected officials expected more for them? Until we elect somebody like Linda, who understands what the rest of Texas goes through, our state won’t develop policies designed for everybody to succeed. Linda Chavez-Thompson has been working for those less fortunate not just her entire career, but her entire life. Please join me in supporting Linda Chavez-Thompson for Lt. Governor.

Watch Linda's remarks at the Texas AFL-CIO meeting last weekend:


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