Former legislative workforce and budget analyst, organizer, and progressive candidate Claudia Zapata said she is running in Texas’s 21st Congressional District because the most basic needs in her community aren’t being met.
A daughter of a public school teacher in a working-class Tejano family, Zapata said watching her family work through difficult times because of bad policy inspired her to run for Congress. As a child, she served as an at-home nurse to her ill grandfather, who decided not to seek health care and save his family the financial burden of overly expensive medical bills.
That experience sparked Zapata’s interest in the world of politics and organizing with groups like the Austin Latino Coalition, Restaurant Organizing Project, and the Sunrise Movement Austin.
So accessibility to grocery stores, expanding hospitals and health care facilities, funding for public schools, and drastic climate justice initiatives are just a few causes Zapata has organized with locally and that she plans to highlight in Washington D.C.
Furthermore, Zapata believes District 21, north of San Antonio, would benefit significantly from progressive policies. According to the census, around 41 percent of TX-21 are communities of color, precisely 33 percent Hispanic/Latino voters — a significant voting bloc Zapata emphasized has been ignored for years.
“I fully believe that mutual aid, direct action, and just showing up for people and servicing them with their most basic needs is actually how you get people electorally involved,” Zapata told the Signal. “In a race where much of the communities of color have for so long been forgotten, it’s key that we engage voters by answering those problems and coming up with solutions.”
In terms of expanding health care for rural pregnant people in Central Texas, Zapata said having access to health care in all forms and stages is just as important. She shared a story of a pregnant woman in Fredericksburg, TX, who had to drive two and a half hours to the nearest pediatrics for treatment.
“Abortion is healthcare, but at the same time, TX-21 has some of the highest infant mortality rates in all of Central Texas,” she said. “We need to make sure we address these issues before they even arise to the point of an emergency. Why are we waiting to treat people before they get to hospitals? They need to be given access to preventative, routine healthcare clinics, family physicians, and that’s in addition to single-payer healthcare and Medicare for All.”
Correspondingly, Zapata said environmental protections in the district are among the candidates’ top issues on both sides of the aisle. According to Zapata, protecting Edwards Aquifer, which sits right above TX-21, addressing environmental racism and air quality needs attention federally.
“We have these private corporations that come and buy cheap rural land and then exploit it, contaminate our water, use our water and not replenish it, and also ruin our air quality,” she said. “Federally, we can create more accountability and strong-arm these corporations into having to abide and follow safe environmental practices.”
With endorsements from the Sunrise Movement, statewide Democrats, progressive groups, and more, Zapata said she’s confident her focus on everyday issues will make her competitive in the primary race and eventually defeat controversial Republican incumbent Chip Roy.
“You can’t fundraise off of saying let’s bring people more grocery stores,” she said. “Values-based messaging and making sure that you aren’t just using national talking lines, but also talking about local issues and being present is the way forward.”
The primary election day for this race is Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.