As a native Texan, who’s spent the majority of my life in Houston, I’m often surprised by how this city never ceases to amaze me. A city that has not only shaped me into the woman I am today, but has more importantly shaped my views on everything from community, politics, and equality to social justice and religion. All of which can be traced back to the Houston energy that pumps through my veins and continues to power my mind and voice to this day. The energy that drives me to seek out new ways to help my community of nearly 5 million not just overcome the challenges we face, but truly thrive.
One of those ways became vividly clear in the summer of 2018, when I first had the pleasure of meeting Judge Lina Hidalgo at the Texas Democratic Convention. I knew in an instant this too was a woman who shared both my appreciation for this amazing, dynamic city – and had a vision and a plan to make it better. Both of which gave me and so many others hope and inspiration to do our part in making our city and our state a better place.
Born in Bogota, Colombia, Lina and her family moved to Houston when she was just 15 years old, falling in love with her new community. Although I’m not certain if she ever imagined the vital role she would one day play, I would like to think that it’s because of the same energy that drives so many of us here in Houston. She felt empowered by that spark, fueling her journey to Stanford University and to attend law school at Harvard and NYU.
Before entering the political sphere, Lina worked for the Internews Network in Thailand, where she advocated for freedom of speech and press, knowing these necessary rights were vital to a functioning democracy. After the 2016 Presidential Election, she found herself wanting to effect change at a higher level. Witnessing the dark path our country was taking, Lina decided to run for Harris County Judge in 2018 at just 27 years old. The odds were not in her favor, but Lina had a plan and she refused to be intimidated or bullied by Republican politicians trying to push her out of the race. She was determined, and she wasn’t going to abandon her mission.
Her campaign focused on the issues most important to Harris County residents. One of the largest being the devastation the county faced after Hurricane Harvey. Lina rolled-up her sleeves and got to work on flood control, increasing transparency in local government, and criminal justice reform. Gaining support from community organizers and advocates, Lina’s people-focused campaign gained national attention as she unseated the Republican incumbent — making her the first Latina woman and youngest candidate to hold the office of Harris County Judge — one of the most powerful positions in our state and our country. With a population of nearly 5 million, Harris County is larger than many countries around the globe. Her historic victory flipped the County Commissioners Court from Republican to Democratic control, a huge win for Texas Democrats!
During her tenure, Lina has worked vigorously to reform cash bail, stop the expansion of I-45 in effort to reduce pollution, and lead emergency efforts during Winter Storm Uri. Judge Hidalgo was one of the first officials in our state to recognize the severity of COVID-19 and take the necessary steps to protect the safety of millions in Harris County. Yet she was met with intense opposition by Governor Greg Abbott and other Texas Republicans. In the face of safety concerns at the polls in the 2020 Election, Judge Hidalgo implemented more inclusive voting protocols that gave Harris County residents ways to vote safely in the midst of a global pandemic. Expanding the vote in such large numbers terrified Republicans at the state, local and federal levels so much that they sued Judge Hidalgo’s office numerous times, ordered an election audit, and even changed the law so neither Harris nor any Texas county can do the same.
Judge Hidalgo demonstrates what real leadership should look like in Texas. Her ability to lead during one of the most trying times in our history in one of the most conservative states in our country is a testament to her greatness. She is a beacon to the nation, exemplifying how to stand for what’s right amidst a state dominated by political agendas. Her amazing ability to bring our city through our darkest days is just one of many reasons why Time Magazine listed her as “100 Most Influential People in the World.” It’s why I, like so many, are grateful to have Judge Lina Hidalgo at the helm.
When I look to the future of Texas and the fight ahead to take back Texas from the oppressive and cruel Republican agenda, I’m hopeful that our voters will be inspired by leaders like Judge Lina Hidalgo. Leaders who care about the people of Texas and who are fighting everyday for equality, fairness, and progress — not regression and oppression. Like all of our large counties in Texas, Harris County is blue. And although this has historically been the case, this year we’ve got our work cut out for us. Republicans are coming after us with their aggressive tactics seeped in division and hate, but we outnumber them and they’re afraid. If we all work together, we can overcome, we can win, and we can take back Texas and ensure a brighter future for ourselves and the next generation.