While most eyes are on the national stage this primary season, many Texans will have the opportunity to vote in local primaries when they head to the polls once early voting starts next week. In a handful of these races, progressive incumbents are facing challengers. One of those incumbents is State Representative Ina Minjarez.
Minjarez joined the Texas Legislature mid-session after a special election to replace Jose Menendez, when he won the runoff to move to the upper chamber as a State Senator. Though the timing of the election meant that Minjarez would not be able to file any legislation on her own, she immediately began identifying opportunities to stand up for her values and her community. As a co-author and joint-sponsor of over 60 bills, Minjarez was able to make her mark in a highly partisan legislative session.
Not one to sit on the sidelines, Minjarez was quick to ask questions and engage with other lawmakers on the House floor. With 30 days left in session, she made the most of her ability to ask tough questions and take hard votes in committee and push back against conservative lawmakers like Jonathan Stickland.
Minjarez is back on the campaign trail and has attracted one challenger: Sergio Contreras. Little is known about Contreras, who doesn’t have a website and has received little to no media coverage to shed light on his platform or values. He does, however, have a Facebook page – one that he uses to wax poetic about why his opponent shouldn’t be running.
Many of his posts about his campaign have a similar theme. Beginning with a platitude about how much he loves his granddaughters, and how much he believes in “strong women,” he goes on to insinuate that the strong woman currently serving his district doesn’t deserve to be there.
Calling Minjarez, a lawyer and elected official, an “accomplished young female” isn’t even the worst part of this post. Asserting that he not only knows what is best for the district, but also for Minjarez’ professional trajectory, Contreras states that “she should concentrate on her career.” In this backhanded tip to her professional accomplishments, Contreras can’t fully disguise his patronizing and condescending tone towards the incumbent.
And this isn’t cute. It’s part of a larger problem.
Of the 181 elected officials in the Texas legislature in 2015, only 36 were women. That’s less than twenty percent. It is no secret that sexism and misogyny, in both blatant and more insidious forms, continue to play a large role in Texas politics. Much has been written about the impact this culture has on women legislators and staff, and on our ability to move women through the pipeline of leadership. Contreras’ self-assured paternalism towards a legislator like Minjarez is more of the same.
Minjarez, along with other leaders in the Texas House and Senate, is one of the exciting faces of Texas’ future. She made her voice heard and her presence known in the span of 30 days at the end of legislative session. I can’t wait to see what she does with a full 140.