Candace Valenzuela, a member of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Board of Trustees, defeated retired Air Force Col. Kim Olson Tuesday in the Democratic runoff for Texas' 24th Congressional District.
In a speech to supporters via Zoom, Valenzuela emphasized her background and how it informed her decision to run for Congress. As a young girl, Valenzuela, her younger brother and mother fled in the middle of the night from an abusive situation. She spent several nights sleeping in a kiddie pool outside a Texaco station in El Paso.
Valenzuela said her reasons for running for Congress were largely the same as the reasons she sought a seat on Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD's school board: a frustration with policymakers who have never had to struggle to make ends meet or live with the repercussions of the policies they passed.
"I'm frustrated with the representation we're seeing from politicians across the board," she said.
Olson conceded the race in a statement released on Twitter. Olson thanked her supporters and pledged to continue fighting for affordable healthcare, women's rights and "an environment that will sustain our future."
"The truth is, sometimes a pilot knows when it's time to land the jet," she said.
Valenzuela aims to be the first Afro Latina in Congress. She has endorsements from U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, as well as former San Antonio mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.
She will face former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne in the general election in November. In 2015, Van Duyne received national attention when she spearheaded a resolution in the Irving City Council endorsing a bill in the Texas Legislature that would have banned Sharia law. The bill died in the legislature. The Dallas Morning News editorial board accused Van Duyne of using the Sharia law issue to cultivate popularity in far-right circles.
Also that year, Van Duyne was named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by the family of Ahmed Mohamed, an Irving teenager who was arrested when he brought a homemade clock to school that teachers mistook for a bomb. After the incident, Van Duyne defended Irving ISD and the Irving Police Department's handling of it, saying school officials "have procedures to run when a possible threat or criminal act is discovered." Mohamed's family's lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
The winner will replace outgoing Rep. Kenny Marchant, who has held the seat since 2005. Marchant announced in August that he would retire when his current term expires.
The 24th Congressional District seat was one of a handful of runoff races on the ballot Tuesday. In the Democratic primary for Railroad Commissioner, Dallas trial lawyer Chrysta Castañeda defeated former Texas House member Roberto "Beto" Alonzo. She goes on to the general election, where she faces businessman James Wright, who unseated incumbent commissioner Ryan Sitton in the Republican primary.
In the race for the bench in Dallas County's Criminal District Court No. 3, former prosecutor Audra Ladawn Riley defeated Teresa Jan Hawthorne, who served as judge in Texas 203rd District Court. In 2017, Hawthorne was reprimanded by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct after she intervened in her nephew's criminal case and scolded jurors in a separate case when they sentenced a man to 99 years in prison for rape.
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