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Texas Set to Send First Latinas From State to Congress

Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia

Two women who won their primaries Tuesday are positioned to become the first Texas Latinas in Congress.

Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia won their respective Democratic primaries in heavily Democratic districts, so they are expected to win easily in the November general election, The Hill reports.

Escobar, a former El Paso County judge, easily won her primary in the 16th Congressional District, centered on El Paso. The current U.S. House member from the district, Beto O’Rourke, is giving up the seat to run for Senate and won his primary, so he will face incumbent Republican Ted Cruz in November.

Escobar will be pitted against Republican Rick Seeberger, but she’s favored to win — the district hasn’t sent a Republican to Congress since 1963, The Hill notes.

Garcia, currently a Texas state senator, won the primary in the Houston-area 29th Congressional District. She’s running to replace Rep. Gene Green, a fellow Democrat, who is retiring. The district is so heavily Democratic that Green won reelection in 2016 with 72 percent of the vote. The vote in the Republican primary was so close that the nominee will likely have to be determined by a runoff, The Hill reports. The top two candidates are Phillip Aronoff and Carmen Montiel.

Texas’s congressional delegation currently includes five Hispanic men, and Cruz was the state’s first Latino U.S. senator. But Texas has never elected a woman of Latino heritage to Congress.

“It’s really hard for women to run, when you have children. Even in the most modern of marriages or partnerships, frequently the mother is the primary caregiver,” Escobar told The Texas Tribune. “Timing has to be right for a lot of us. And I think it’s even harder for women of color because fundraising is really such a huge component of running in a congressional race and many of us may have limited networks.”

But, she said, “I think many of us have gotten to the point where we say forget the obstacles, we just got to get this done. There’s just too much at stake.”

Garcia told the Tribune, “I wanted Latino girls and boys to know this is a state of opportunity and it's a welcoming state. You have to work hard and believe in yourself and you can do it.” She added, “I never really wanted to be the first. I wanted to be the best.”

Turnout was heavy in all Democratic primary races in Texas, with a million votes cast as opposed to half that number in 2014, the last midterm election, although the number still lagged the Republicans’ 1.5 million, according to the Tribune. However, it was the biggest Democratic midterm turnout since 1994. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez was encouraged, releasing the following statement:

“Congratulations to Texas Democrats for showing us what organizing looks like. The energy in the Lone Star State is palpable; Democrats not only turned out at a record rate during early voting, they almost doubled the 2014 primary turnout while competing in every single congressional district across the state. Texans are ready to elect more Democrats because they want leaders who will stand up for them and their values, not for Donald Trump’s divisive agenda that benefits wealthy corporations and the top 1 percent at the expense of working families.

“What’s happening in Texas is part of a national trend. All across the country, Democrats are competing and winning in deep-red states. And we’re going to keep fighting for working families and winning elections everywhere in November and beyond.”

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