Sylvia Romo should be preparing for retirement, instead, she’s campaigning as the Democratic candidate for the 35th district of Texas. The long-time tax assessor-collector of Bexar County and former state house rep said that the opportunity to run for Congress in this newly created district came about just as she had decided not to seek re-election to her county post. But, she told us, there was something else that pushed her towards a congressional run.
“Sometimes, people don’t want to talk about the elephant in the room. In Texas, of course that means the population is increasing because of the growth of Latinos. We were supposed to get four new minority opportunity districts, [but] that went down to two. District 35 is one of them, and my opponent [Austin Congressman Lloyd Doggett], the last time I looked, was not a minority,” she told us.
“That gives me ganas to win, because I feel that it is about time. I believe that we should have diversity and everything — whether it is business, or education, and definitely in government,” Romo continued.
Originally from San Antonio, Romo would be the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas. Despite her many years in politics, Romo says she was shocked to find out that she would be the first Latina Congresswoman from Texas. “I hope to be a will to break that, so more women will come after me,” she said.
Chatting with her, you get the sense that she’s not only very dedicated, but very focused about everything she does. Nonetheless, she says she never intended to be in politics, but was encouraged to run for county Democratic party chair. Then, she was encouraged to run for state rep, and eventually became the first female tax assessor-collector of Bexar County.
Although she told us she was hoping to go back into the private sector after her current term expired, the creation of what should be a minority district in Texas called her to run. The way Romo tells it, she feels the need to provide the representation the state’s growing Latino population needs.
But Romo believes that she is simply the best candidate for the job for the people from Travis to Hays to Bexar counties. As an accountant, she understands the economics of the area, she lived in Austin, she has family in San Marcos, and feels that she is the best person to represent this new district. She also feels the race is “winnable” for her, since the 68% minority district now also includes part of San Antonio’s District 20, or retiring Congressman Charlie Gonzalez’s current district. These, she says, are her “stomping grounds.”
Romo told us that she believes this new district needs a new voice in Congress; she believes she has a new perspective and different skills that would do the district good. Her experience in the Texas house as a negotiator will enable her to get things done in D.C., specifically, economic development, she said. Creating jobs, bringing new technologies to the district, and generally encouraging economic development along the corridor is also part of her plan. Part of this, and Romo’s view, is rapid transit in the form of a train between Austin and San Antonio. Constituent services is also a big part of what Romo says she will do for the district. And because Romo has made her professional life as an accountant, she sees things in very economic terms.
“We have to rebuild the economy. If you have a strong economy, then you have jobs, if you have jobs you are able to circulate money, you are able to buy things, and you help businesses grow, you’re able to have money to send your kid to college,” She explained. “It’s a multiplier. The economy is the basis of everything.”
Romo is very self-assured, she says that if she had a year to prepare, she would have just as much money as longtime Congressman Doggett. What’s more, she says that because she’s a woman, she knows how to budget; and has a hard worker she says she is traveling up and down the I-35 corridor organizing a coalition of people across the district who support her candidacy. “They tell me Doggett is a relentless campaigner — but he’s met his match,” she told us.
Although Romo just filed for the seat in early December, she’s already played musical chairs with several opponents for the Democratic nomination. After Doggett’s district in Austin was spliced beyond recognition by the redistricting process, he set his sights on the 35th, meaning that congressional newcomer Romo will now face veteran Doggett in a district that has never had a congressional representative before. Crucial to Romo’s win will be convincing people from Central Texas that someone from San Antonio has their best interests at heart, but also mobilizing as many of the 1 million-plus Latinos that reside in the area. The David and Goliath-like nature of this election is not lost on her, but Romo seems anything but phased.
“I’ve always had this passion for helping people and they still do. Yes, it’s difficult, and yes, you have to have a thick skin, and sometimes politics can be nasty. But I just brush myself off and keep going,” she said.[Courtesy Photo]