In an exclusive interview with Lone Star Q, Celia Israel, Democratic candidate for House District 50, recalls coming out to Ann Richards while working on her gubernatorial campaign.
“I had a state job right out of college, and at 5 o'clock every day, I would just go volunteer on Ann's campaign,” Israel told Lone Star Q. “Before I knew it, they offered me a job – making pennies – and that's how I got hooked on politics, back in 1989 and '90, on Ann's campaign. It was a tremendous time in Texas history, and I was just lucky to be part of it.”
Israel's girlfriend at the time was also volunteering for Richards, who noticed the two were a couple.
Read Richards' awesome response to Israel and her girlfriend below the jump.“Anybody who knew Ann knew those blue eyes could look right through you,” said Israel. “She gave us that look one day, and she said, 'Why, don't you guys look like a couple of bookends?' And you knew exactly what she was saying. We were like, 'Oh god, she knows.' Back then, it was kind of big deal that your boss knew you were gay. It was kind of relief that she said it. I learned at a relatively young age to just be open and honest and be who you are. It was refreshing. That was a great gift that she gave me at a young age.”
Texas state Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint)
Israel remembers how challenging it was to elect Ann Richards as governor, for one, because she was a Democrat in Texas, and two, because of the unfair obstacles Richards faced as a female candidate. Israel has high hopes Texas Democrats can repeat history again by electing Texas state Senator Wendy Davis as governor come November.
Israel will face Republican candidate Mike VanDeWalle on January 28th in a special election runoff in HD-50, seat left by former Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin). Israel believes Republicans and the Tea Party are targeting the district, which leans Democrat, because voter turnout is expected to be low. The two candidates will face each other again in the November elections.
If Israel wins, she will join state Representative Mary E. Gonzalez (D-Clint) as the state's first two openly LGBT members serving in the Texas Legislature. Gonzalez became only the second openly LGBT person elected to serve in the Texas House after former Rep. Glen Maxey, who last served more than a decade ago. While several straight allies also exist in the Texas Senate, no openly LGBT candidate has ever been elected state senator.
And in Texas politics, if you're not at the table, you're on the menu.
“Texas is so far behind, and we took a big step backward in 2005 when we put anti-gay marriage language into our Constitution,” said Israel. “But domestic partner benefits for university employees, perhaps that's an area for us to start.”
“Texas is not an island unto itself when it comes to how the nation is changing its attitudes about LGBTQ issues, so I'm looking forward to carrying that banner and helping us advance these issues, because it's important. I don't think Texas is as red or as conservative as we've been led to believe. You just don't know until you knock on doors, identify voters, put on your tennis shoes and do that grassroots work that needs to be done.”
Israel also looks forward to helping work on our state's public education and transportation issues.