Linda Chavez-Thompson: Street smart and Texas wise

Self-educated and fiercely outspoken, Linda Chavez-Thompson has become the spokesperson for labor workers around the state.

Now, if she wins election in November, Linda Chavez-Thompson will become the first Latina lieutenant governor of Texas

Born and raised in Lorenzo, Texas as a second generation Mexican-American, she hoed and picked cotton from age 10 until she was 19 years old. As one of 10 children, she had to drop out of high school as a freshman to help support her family.

However, that did not stop her from teaching herself to read and write Spanish as well as learn public speaking skills. "I always yearned and literally craved an education. It was always something I wanted to do but was never able to do," says the politician. 

Education and reforms to the current education system are the main platforms she pushes for. "The educational system is not what it should be. We are not dedicating the kind of monies that we need to change our children's education."

If elected, she said she plans to ensure that money will not be cut from the education system because of the budget deficit. "They are planning to cut 3 to 5 percent, and that should be going into the education system, not taken out."

Unlike her opponent, incumbent David Dewhurst, a Republican whose main focus is health care, Chavez-Thompson did not attend college. However, she began working at a labor union and discovered her love for helping others in public sector organizing.

From there, she became the first Hispanic woman to be elected Executive Vice-President of the National American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. After that, she was elected to serve as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee and in 1997 was appointed to then-President Bill Clinton’s Race Advisory Board.

When asked if she thought her lack of a college degree seemed a positive or negative for her voters, she replied, "A positive. I may not have a Bachelor of Science, but I do have a good BS degree. I have street smarts and I have been called every name in the book, but I never folded...Not for something I believed in. I've learned from people and I have felt what they felt."

Asked what it would mean to be the first woman lieutenant governor of Texas, Chavez-Thompson said that being a woman has nothing to do with the kind of person you are. "I made it a point to men to never talk down to me as a woman. I had to develop a thicker skin, and yes, there were difficult years, but the only one that can tear those barriers down is you. In the end, all that matters is people's ability to connect with other people."

She has come from a humble background and managed to achieve goals that people with multiple degrees never have. When asked how she feels about being considered a great leader, Chavez-Thompson said: "I have seen the humiliation others have suffered and worked the same labor fields. If I can prevent just one person from suffering the same humiliation, and if people consider that great leadership, then so be it."

Dania Pulido is an English and Communication Arts major at St. Mary's University, where she wrote this article for the spring 2010 Journalism class. The final exam for Pulido and her classmates was to interview Linda Chavez-Thompson via Skype video and then write an article about the candidate and the issues.

Her professor in the class was Charlotte-Anne Lucas, Program Coordinator of NOWCastSA.

Credits: The photo with this article is used with permission from the Chavez-Thompson campaign.