2014 is shaping up to be the year of women in Texas politics. Voters in Texas will have an opportunity to elect women from the top of the statewide ticket to down-ballot local races, like the one in Senate District 17. The district, which stretches from Houston to to the coastline, is currently represented by Senator Joan Huffman. Huffman is a Republican who became a state senator in 2008 after beating Democrat Chris Bell in a special election runoff. Her challenger, the first Democrat to take on the race since 2008, is lawyer Rita Lucido. This is one race you have to watch.
Huffman may not be as well-known as her colleague Dan Patrick, but that's just because she doesn't look for the limelight. Her voting history shows her to be just as conservative and destructive for the state. She is just less likely to write home about it. For those living in Senate District 17, Lucido is a breath of fresh air. A Democrat with a history of supporting progressive causes, including reproductive justice, Lucido's campaign is focused on how Texans can do even better. And this applies especially to residents of SD 17, who can most definitely do better than Joan Huffman.
More on Rita Lucido and the race for SD 17 below the jump.Huffman ran on her experience fighting crime and gang violence as a prosecutor and judge when she first ran for office in 2008. One claim to fame is her “100% percent conviction rate in capital murder cases,” which she highlighted in a campaign commercial from that special election runoff.
Lucido's campaign is quick to point out that though Huffman has been reelected twice, she has never had a real opponent since she won the special election in 2008. Without someone to hold her accountable, Huffman has been able to take incredibly conservative votes that are devastating to Texans and Texas families – whether her constituents know it or not.
Many in Huffman's district have never even met their state senator. When out blockwalking and talking to voters, Lucido says she encounters a theme. “She's never knocked on my door,” voters say about Huffman. Until now, she hasn't had to. Lucido hopes to change that.
Lucido, a family law attorney who has been in practice for over thirty years, already has enthusiastic support from important names in the Democratic community in Texas. Former CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Peter Durkin, drove 300 miles to speak to friends at a meet and greet for Lucido. He knows Lucido from her time on the board of Planned Parenthood and knows that she is “exceedingly qualified” to represent Senate District 17. When asked why he believes this race is so important, he pulls out pictures of his grandchildren. He is here, he says, for them. Lucido is the kind of senator we need for the future of our state, and Durkin is the first to say so.
Lucido has a personal and professional history of standing up for women and children. As a family lawyer her work allowed her to advocate on their behalf and help find solutions for Texas families. She has worked with Planned Parenthood, the Houston Area Women's Center, and Avance. When the Texas legislature passed parental consent laws for minors seeking abortion services, Lucido knew that these kinds of policies could be devastating for young women in abusive relationships or living in dangerous situations. This led her to co-found Jane's Due Process, an organization focused on helping these young women navigate their options.
Huffman voted in favor of Voter ID, against funding public education, and for laws that restrict women's access to healthcare and control over their reproductive lives time and time again as a state senator. Lucido's campaign is quick to point out that this voting record isn't just bad for residents of SD 17. Legislators like Huffman are bad for the entire state.
Facing a Republican opponent with name recognition and a war chest is no small feat, but Lucido and her team of staffers and supporters are ready for the fight. The Texas Democratic Party and Battleground Texas are on #TeamRita, too, and the excitement around this candidate is palpable. For many living in SD 17, this will be the first time in years that they've had a candidate who actually represents the direction they want to see in Texas politics.