An activist who became one of the biggest stars of Texas' 2018 election is seeking office herself. Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, the co-founder and former executive director of Jolt and the Workers Defense Project, is running for U.S. Senate, joining a Democratic primary field that includes Dallas state Sen. Royce West, Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards, former U.S. House candidate and Air Force veteran MJ Hegar and former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell.
Tzintzún Ramirez made her progressive bones with the Workers Defense Project, a labor advocacy group that she founded in 2006, pushing for worker-friendly policies around Texas, including rest breaks for construction workers and living wages for municipal employees. After the 2016 election, she founded Jolt, a group that seeks to help Texas Latinos harness their political power.
Shortly before the 2018 election, she told the Observer that neither party in Texas was doing an adequate job of appealing to Latinos, who will eventually make up the state's biggest voting bloc.
"While we have Democrats running for the first time in every single race in Texas and most Latinos vote for Democrats, you have seen, generally, from many campaigns a lack of understanding about who the Latino population is and our core issues, as well as a real lack of engagement in Latino voter outreach and engagement," Tzintzún Ramirez said.
It's clear from the campaign staff Tzintzún Ramirez has already hired that she plans to try to build on the groundwork laid during former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke's ultimately unsuccessful campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. O'Rourke's statewide field director, statewide deputy field director, distributed organizing director and digital programming firm are all already on board.
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“Cristina’s brought together a team that includes top Texas community organizers, veterans of Beto’s Senate campaign and a top digital team that has helped raise hundreds of millions of small-dollar donations,” Tzintzún Ramirez campaign treasurer and Austin-based Democratic fundraiser Eugene Sepulveda said Monday. “Defeating John Cornyn in 2020 will take a campaign that organizes more volunteers and raises more money than any other in Texas history. This is that campaign.”
In her campaign launch video, Tzintzún Ramirez spared no time before taking on her potential Republican opponent, accusing Cornyn of being complicit with an administration pushing a "narrative that paints us as not equally part of this country, allows people to treat our lives as less human, as less equal than theirs. That not only hurts our communities, it hurts all Americans, because that’s how they get away with not giving us healthcare, that’s how they get away with not investing in our schools. For me, it’s a tragic consequence of the politics of hate. That kind of hatred, that kind of vitriol, that kind of targeting, allows people to feel like they can target us on the streets of our community."
Cornyn, for his part, did not immediately attack Tzintzún Ramirez, breaking with a script he followed after Hegar got in the race in April and West announced his campaign in July. Cornyn ignored Tzintzún Ramirez on his campaign Twitter account and simply retweeted a Texas Monthly article about his new opponent with his Senate Twitter account.
While Tzintzún Ramirez might be the last candidate to join the field, there are few indications she got in too late. In a Democratic primary poll from Emerson University released last week, more than 51% of likely primary voters said they'd yet to make up their mind about whom they planned to support. Nineteen percent of Democrats surveyed said they preferred "someone else," rather than the four candidates already in the race.