A packed room at the University of Houston caught a glimpse of the next big thing happening in Texas on Saturday, and the ceremonies felt decidedly different from those that have come before it.
That’s because the organization hosting the day’s proceedings is no stranger to doing big things, and with the 2022 midterms heating up, they’ve decided to bring their time, attention, and resources to the biggest battleground state: Texas.
It makes sense that NextGen America, the largest youth voting organization in the country, would pounce on the opportunity in Texas, where the population is rapidly growing, and along with it an emerging electorate of younger and more diverse voters.
Their commitment to Texas was on full display Saturday, as a diverse group of speakers welcomed the organizing powerhouse to the state in style at the University of Houston. The activists, clad in masks and in seats that were spaced a little farther apart than you’d usually see, packed the auditorium to hear from Texas political luminaries like former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julián Castro and former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, who rallied the crowd in between equally powerful speeches from student activists speaking about the barriers to voter registration and participation that exist in Texas.
That big tent approach and understanding of the unique hurdles Texas puts in front of potential voters will be key if NextGen’s multi-million dollar effort to change the face of the Texas electorate is going to be successful, and the biggest sign that NextGen didn’t show up to mess with Texas is the person they’ve tapped to lead the fight.
NextGen’s new president and executive director is Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, the former U.S. Senate candidate and founder of Jolt, an organization devoted to engaging and uplifting Latino Texans. Tzintzún Ramirez turned heads on the campaign trail in 2020 with her fiercely progressive vision and fearless style, and her background at Jolt and the Workers Defense Project help bring a level of depth to NextGen’s efforts that have sometimes been missing in previous attempts to register and engage new voters in Texas.
You could see the approach Tzintzún Ramirez is taking on full display Saturday, with NextGen founder Tom Steyer in the house, as a multicultural group of speakers highlighted the struggle and fight for voting rights in Texas. Centering those communities and voices will be critical to hitting the ambitious goals NetGen is setting with what is rumored to be an eight-figure investment in the Lone Star state.