Running for Senate this year wasn’t part of Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez’s plan. While the idea to run for public office had crossed her mind in the past, when Democratic organizers approached her about running to unseat Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn in 2020, she took a long time to think about it. “I thought maybe it’s not the right time for me personally, but it’s the right political moment, and sometimes moments pick you,” Tzintzún Ramirez said in a recent phone interview with Luz Collective.
Before she announced her candidacy this past summer, word spread that she was being encouraged to run. The Texas Tribune reported that a “group of progressive operatives” saw her as the candidate with the right background and experience to help turn the primarily red state blue. Tzintzún Ramirez is the daughter of an immigrant, the mother of a two-year-old son and a political organizer known for mobilizing young Latinos to vote.
But first, she has to first defeat the 11 other candidates vying for the Democratic spot on the November ballot, which may not be an easy feat. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) recently endorsed candidate Mary “MJ” Hegar, a decision Tzintzún Ramirez was quick to denounce.
“The DSCC won’t decide this primary– Texas voters will. And Texans want a candidate who isn’t afraid to stand up for progressive policies and who will fight for families everywhere.”
She has received endorsements, however, from the Working Families Party, University Democrats at the University of Texas in Austin and Former Texas Agriculture Commissioner of Texas Jim Hightower. “I think in a lot of ways, I’m just an ordinary person,” Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez reflected. “[But] when I see things that are unfair and unjust, it makes me angry and it makes me want to change it.”
That desire for change has always been a driving force for Tzintzún Ramirez. Growing up biracial, she was able to see how race, class and privilege changed the way her parents were treated. Her mother, the oldest of nine kids in a farm-working family, immigrated from Mexico and spoke English with an accent. Her father is a white, middle-class entrepreneur from Ohio. Tzintzún Ramirez remembers noticing how differently she and her siblings would be treated when they walked into a meeting with their mother as opposed to when they were with their father. “Often times the treatment was night and day. That made me angry as a kid and it still makes me incredibly angry. and gives me fire in my belly to try to change it and do something about it,” said Tzintzún Ramirez.
Tzintzún Ramirez has spent a decade and a half organizing various Texas communities. She co-founded the Workers Defense Project that empowers low-income workers to obtain fair employment, and Jolt, an organization that motivates young Latinos to vote.
Tzintzún Ramirez started Jolt a week after the 2016 Presidential Election. She was six months pregnant and had just returned to Texas after working in Washington D.C. to mobilize young Latino voters nationally. Her initial plan was to watch Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump in 2016, go on maternity leave and then launch Jolt, but she accelerated those plans after President Trump’s victory. “I cried in bed for several days, and then I decided that as frightening as it was to launch an organization while expecting my first child, it was more frightening to imagine sitting on the sidelines under a Trump administration as a Latina and as a daughter of an immigrant,” she shared.
In August, Tzintzún Ramirez stepped down from her role as executive director to run for U.S. Senate. According to Jolt Action’s fact sheet, 210,000 Latinos turn 18 every year and 95 percent of them are American citizens. During her time with a Jolt, she’s proud that she helped young Latinos recognize that they are in fact quite powerful. “That’s why I decided to run for Senate because as Latinos, even though we make up 40 percent of the state’s population, you sure wouldn’t know it if you turned on the TV or looked at who is in power. I think the only way you change that is by taking power for yourself and your community,” said Tzintzún Ramirez.
Tzintzún Ramirez is also eager to teach President Trump, Senator Cornyn and other legislators that there are repercussions for targeting and discriminating against Latinos, and breaking up their families at the border. “They thought they could do that without consequences.They learned in 2018 when they lost the re-elections that if you come for Latinos families–we will come for you and vote you out of office,” said Tzintzún Ramirez.
She thinks that is the exact lesson she’s going to teach with her campaign. “I love nothing more than imagining that it’s going to be this proud immigrant daughter that unseats John Cornyn. Especially because he has targeted our community and has stood by the politics of hate in a state where one in three of us are like me: immigrants or children of immigrants, where 40 percent of our state population is Latino, thirteen percent is African American, where the majority are people of color,” said Tzintzún Ramirez. “We have a tremendous opportunity to show that it is going to be a young, diverse Texas that will end the politics of hate.”