Who am I?
I was born and raised in Colton, California. The daughter of a Mexican immigrant family, I learned the value of hard work and determination at an early age. I was one of six children who grew up in a modest home next to the train tracks on the south side of town, and we all did our part to contribute to our household. At the age of twelve, I began working the onion fields of the Inland Empire alongside my brothers and sisters in order to help pay for our school clothes.
When I was a young girl, I saw my parents taken advantage of by an attorney, and I committed myself to getting the education that I would need to become a voice for struggling families. I spent my first two years at San Bernardino Valley College and worked up to three jobs so that I could eventually transfer to and graduate from the University of Southern California. I continued my education at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and was hired after graduation to represent unions, including the United Auto Workers and the California Teacher’s Association, in workers compensation cases.
My goal was always to serve my neighbors and give back to the community that gave me so much. I soon returned home and became the first Latina to open and manage her own law firm in the Inland Empire. For the last 30 years, I have been proud to serve as a tireless advocate for working families, representing union members and injured workers across our district as an attorney, small business owner and community activist.
I have spent my entire life helping others because it has always been the right thing to do. When there were efforts to put a toxic waste dump near a low-income housing project in Colton, I joined with residents to help navigate the red tape and defeat the proposal. When the health needs of our community were going unmet, I worked with a group of local activists to open the Inland Empire Community Health Center. And when I realized just how many area families were in need of legal counsel because they were unable to afford it, I began volunteering with Inland Empire Latino Lawyer Legal Aid to provide pro bono legal services in our community – and I have done so for the last 25 years ago.
The pride that I feel for my community runs deep. My husband, Frank, and I have raised our son, Kristofer, here in the Inland Empire, just miles away from the house I grew up in. This district is my home, and I plan to always do my part to make this great place even greater.
Why am I running?
I am running for Congress because the Inland Empire deserves so much more than what it gets. We have been set aside by Washington and, even worse, we have been left behind by our own leaders. The Inland Empire currently leads the nation in poverty. San Bernardino County, once a thriving hub of commerce and transportation, has suffered the consequences of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and destructive free trade policies. Our unemployment rate has risen to 11.6 percent in 2013, and more than 220,000 Inland Empire homes were seized by banks and sold out of foreclosure over the last five years.
Our community has taken a direct hit by government deregulation and legislation catering to special interests. The consequences have been devastating, and we are just now beginning to recover.
The only way that we are going to turn things around in the Inland Empire is to elect someone to Congress who will be an authentic voice of our community, beholden to no one but the people who live here. True representation means understanding, on a personal level, the challenges that the members of a community face. I already know what it is like for my neighbors who are fighting to keep their homes, struggling to pay for groceries and pushing for their children to make it through high school – because I help them find solutions to their problems every day. That’s who I have been my entire life, and that’s who I will be as the representative of California’s 31st Congressional District.
I am the Democrat who will turn this seat blue. This is the most Democratic congressional district in the entire country that is currently represented by a Republican. And, in fact, we are represented by a far-right Republican. Our current representative, Gary Miller, opposes many policies that the majority of voters in this district support. He could not be a worse fit for our community. Barack Obama won this district by over 57 percent in 2012, yet no Democrat even made it past the primary election that year because a field of weak Democrats cleared the way for two Republicans to fight it out in November.
As the only progressive and the only woman running in a crowded field of career politicians, I am the candidate who can win this seat back for Democrats and best represent the values of our community in Congress.
1) Create Jobs In The Inland Empire
I will be committed to getting our economy moving in San Bernardino County by ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, providing incentives for businesses to create employment opportunities locally, investing in local infrastructure and cultivating the tools and resources that small businesses need to grow and succeed. I will also be committed to preparing our students to compete for jobs by finding ways to keep them in school and working to end the achievement gap.
2) Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Far too many Americans are currently living in the shadows, unable to lead full, thriving lives because they do not have a clear pathway toward citizenship. Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue. In our district, over 66 percent of voters support comprehensive immigration reform. Yet, the Republican currently representing our district has opposed it on multiple occasions. Comprehensive immigration reform will help our community – and communities across America – thrive by growing our economy and bringing new and diverse talent into many industries.
3) Protect Services That Families, Seniors And Veterans Rely On
I am dedicated to ensuring that our families, seniors and veterans receive the benefits and services that they depend on to get by each day. In the case of veterans, we must end the backlog of claims at Veterans Affairs so that our service members receive the benefits they have earned without delay. And when compromises are made to balance the budget, programs like Social Security and Medicare should not end up on the chopping block or be subjected to adjustments, like the Chained CPI, that eat away at the benefits Americans receive.
My DFA Values
I believe deeply in the American Dream and the concepts of opportunity, equality and empowerment. I was able to go from an onion picker to an attorney and small business owner through hard work and determination and because of the unmatched opportunity that my family was able to find here in America. These days, stories like mine have become the exception, and I believe that we must take steps to restore our promise so that everyone has access to the American Dream and a chance to achieve success, prosperity and fulfillment.
People are denied access to opportunity when fear becomes a part of the equation. Opportunity is not a pie that gets smaller and smaller each time a piece gets taken. When one member of a community thrives, all members of the community benefit. That is why it is so critical that we elect progressive leaders who will make sound choices, based on democratic values, when it comes to our budget, our education system, our environment and our military. Short-sighted decisions have long-standing consequences. It is when the interests of a few are put above the interests of all that bigotry and greed flourish. Policy that promotes inequality causes people to focus only on getting their piece of the pie. Our commitment to community, security and liberty is about creating a society that plants a seed for justice and opportunity, not just for our generation, but for generations to come.
My Campaign is People Powered!
I have supported many past candidates for Congress in this district so I can personally say with great confidence that the level of interest and engagement in our campaign has been unparalleled in this community. After the loss that Democrats endured in this district in 2012, progressives here are ready to work hard to make sure that we are represented by somebody in Congress who shares our values.
In just over six months, our campaign has already cultivated an enthusiastic volunteer base of over 100 people who come into our office several times each month to assist with stuffing envelopes, making phone calls and conducting donor research. We have also developed a robust internship program that draws on students and Young Democrats from local colleges, including the University of California at Riverside, California State University San Bernardino and San Bernardino Valley College.
People from across our district have been eager to share whatever they are able to with our campaign. I am proud to report that only $13,000 of the funds I raised last quarter were designated as general election funds because my contributions came from a large and diverse group of low-dollar donors – not just a handful of high-dollar donors – whereas almost half of my main opponent’s funds raised last quarter were designated to the general election period.
In order to connect with the progressive grassroots at the national level, we reached out to Blue America for support, and I am now on their list of endorsed candidates. I have an active and generous base of supporters in their membership. The Blue America blog has also been an effective platform for me to connect with members of the progressive community across America. I have written guest posts for the Blue America blog, and I regularly provide perspective, quotes and commentary for blogs entries posted by the organization’s founders.
We are working hard to harness the momentum amongst our current base of supporters in order to further grow our network amongst the progressive grassroots. We recently kicked off a donor-to-donor prospecting campaign in which our volunteers send letters to members of their personal networking and ask them to support the campaign by pledging their money, their time or their vote. We are also cultivating relationships in the netroots community in order to expand the reach of my message and continue growing our network, and I have joined the local Democracy for America chapter in Riverside in order to make new contacts in the progressive community in the area.
Our support amongst the progressive grassroots is already so powerful – and we are just getting started!