First Reading: Linda Chavez-Thompson for Lieutenant Governor

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Great news from Jason Embry in First Reading — Democrats may have a very strong Lieutenant Governor candidate in 2010: Linda Chavez-Thomspon. A strong Democrat from San Antonio, Chavez-Thompson would bring some immediate firepower to the No. 2 spot on our ticket — and give Democrats even more to get excited about in next year's statewide elections.

From First Reading:

Linda Chavez-Thompson, a former executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, is leaning toward running for lieutenant governor as a Democrat, according to multiple sources familiar with her plans.

The San Antonio resident, born and raised in the Lubbock area, is now executive vice president emerita of the labor organization and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. She was also a super-delegate during the 2008 presidential primary.

Among Democrats who know about her plans, there is already considerable excitement about a Chavez-Thompson bid. The thinking goes that her personal story — she quit school in the ninth grade so she could start working and earn money for her family — creates a contrast with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the wealthy Republican incumbent. (Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Dewhurst wasn’t born into wealth). And as someone who has risen to the top of the national labor movement and the top of the national Democratic Party, Chavez-Thompson has a myriad of contacts within the party from whom she can raise money. Plus, she is well-known in the San Antonio area.

Chavez-Thompson was born in the Lubbock area in 1944. According to her bio, she:

  • Worked in cotton fields as a ten year-old, and had to drop out of school in 9th grade to support her family.
  • At age 19, she took a job as a house cleaner and worked for $1 an hour.
  • Four years later, in 1967, she took a secretarial position with the Lubbock local chapter of the Laborers' International Union
  • In 1971 — after proving invaluable as a bilingual union worker — she went to work for ASFCME in Austin, then in San Antonio. By 1977, she was executive director of the San Antonio office.

Then her story really gets incredible:

Word quickly spread of the powerhouse Latina who was winning battles for workers throughout the state, and soon Chavez-Thompson was in demand for her negotiation and organizational skills. She saved the jobs of 33 community college workers by bringing about the public ouster of three trustees whose financial abuses the workers had reported. Chavez-Thompson organized emergency drivers to cover for workers on a wildcat strike, driving one of the trucks herself, and became known as a union representative who would risk arrest at protests and on picket lines to help the people she represented.

I could go on and on, but you should just read her complete biography — it's simply incredible.

By all accounts, Linda Chavez-Thompson is the emodiment of a community organizer who has made a difference not only in Texas, but across the country. Her narrative is inspiring — someone who has overcome every disadvantage in her path to improve the lives of those in her community. Contrasted with the exceedingly wealthy David Dewhurst, it provides an incredible contrast in the Lieutenant Governor's race for Democrats. 

More on this later in the afternoon…but if Linda Chavez-Thompson does decide to get in the race, we could have the best 1-2 punch on our ticket in decades.

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About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.

33 Comments

  1. TexianPolitico on

    Marc Katz stands in the way!
    This is great news, but don't forget that first she'll have to get past Marc Katz in the primary if he runs. The word from one of my sources is that Katz has been trying to file his paperwork for that office now for about two months. He was rumored to have been seen inside the Capitol Annex two days ago roaming around on E2 asking people where he had to go to file for LtGov. I think he could be an electoral dynamo and a force to contend with in a primary because after all his campaign “never kloses!”  

  2. Sounds good.
    I'll make the obligatory comment that she could help mobilize Hispanic turnout, which will be much needed for statewide wins next November. However, until other Hispanic-surnamed candidates of cycles past, her organizing background gives me great hope that she will actually do it.  

  3. Please clarify her educational background
    Is the 8th grade the last grade she completed?  Did she ever go back to school?  It sounds an awful lot like you are saying that being a high school (almost middle school) dropout is a credential to be bragged about.

    • Lord knows that you
      don't need a college degree to be a Lt. Governor. I don't know what her educational background is, but I find success without an academic background more impressive and a better indicator of performance, then a college degree. And I have a J.D.

      What you need to be a Lt. Gov. are organizing and political skills, and the ability to hire good help. An iron will, strong voter base, ruthless discipline and a heavy stick also help.

      Houston will turn out for White. Travis would turn out for a yellow dog. Sounds like San Anonio might turn out for Chavez-Thompson. All good.

      I think a bigger burden to her election is her Union background. I like unions, but they've got a bad rap in Texas, and unfairly so. She'll lose more votes over that than her any supposed educational deficit. However, she probably didn't have those votes anyway.

      • So that means no?
        Through your defensiveness you are saying the worst that can be said about this candidate.

        She has never gone beyond eighth grade?  Lord knows Texas elected officials are already a national laughingstock (remember Al Edwards on The Colbert Report?), but having a Lieutenant Governor with only eight years of formal education would put us on the map again, and not in a good way.  

    • From a Biography
      Did some googling, and I found this little thing here.  

      The most relevant text:

      The course of Chavez's life would perhaps have been much different had she not resisted her father's demands that she leave school at age 13 to work for the family full-time by cleaning the house and making meals. The family was facing a financial crisis at the time, and her father believed that it was more important that his sons receive a proper education, since Chavez's likely destiny was to get married and become a housewife. Thus, she remained in school through the ninth grade and left at age 16.

      Though it seems like once she got into her activist work, she made sure to learn her stuff, and she succeeded, too:

      Before long she was serving as the union representative to all the local's Spanish-speaking members. She wrote up grievances and spoke for them at administrative meetings while taking organizational classes in her spare time. Chavez-Thompson educated herself so well in labor-related issues that she was even mistaken for a lawyer at one hearing.

  4. Van de Putte?
    I'm still hoping Leticia Van de Putte will jump in, but if Chavez-Thompson gets in, she will be the second best Democratic candidate running for statewide office.  So it's still good news.

  5. i know Linda
    she is a firecracker.

    she is passionate and has a rolodex the size of Nebraska.

    i worked with her and her folks last municipal cycle in SA. she has a great story and a great energy.

    • TexianPolitico on

      Size of Nebraska?
      Nebraska is pretty small. Only three congressional districts. It'd be better if she had a database of names the size of California or perhaps Texas. Also, who still uses a Rolodex?

      • Being funny.
        If he had been serious, I think he would have capitalized it. He capitalizes when he's serious. Saying she has a rolodex the size of Texas sounds like a Rick Perry platitude. I like conservative estimates myself.  

  6. Wow, this is big.
    This would get national attention and national support.  Linda Chavez-Thompson is a superstar in the labor movement.  Her candidacy would absolutely help with turnout in South Texas and among progressives, and I guess she even has a little Panhandle appeal!  Of course Democrats would still lose the Panhandle bigtime but any little bit helps.

    Her qualifications and experience in executive and policy-related positions are proven.  I don't know about her education after 9th grade but I highly doubt she didn't at least get a GED later in life.  

  7. Seems like a good candidate, but the ticket…
    She would fill the gap we have in the Lt. Gov.'s race, but there is still Land Com. and Comptroller. Eliot Shapleigh, and Nick Lampson, please don't let us down.

    • Yes, the ticket…
      We really do need good candidates for Land Commissioner and Comptroller.  

      As for Comptroller, I'd hate for the only Democratic candidate to be Carole Grandma Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn, Democrat, or rather, Republican, better yet, Independent, or perhaps Democrat? Which party is this again?  Kevin would know, where's Kevin? Yoo hoo, Kevin?  Where are you?

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