Candace Valenzuela conceded her race in Texas’s 24th Congressional District to Republican Beth Van Duyne.
After narrowly trailing Van Duyne for a week after Election Day, Valenzuela, a progressive candidate, conceded on Tuesday, saying in a statement: “Others told me that I couldn’t do it because I lacked gravitas and, as a mother and a woman of color, I didn’t fit the image of an elected official. Even though we didn’t win this race, we’ve forced the gatekeepers of the political process to reimagine who belongs at the table.”
If Valenzuela had won, the 36-year-old would have made history as the first Afro-Latina to be elected to the U.S. House.
Democrats had pinned their hopes on flipping the Republican-held seat blue. The district, which stretches between Dallas and Fort Worth and is currently represented by retiring Rep. Kenny Marchant, had been rated a “toss-up.” Donald Trump won there in 2016, but Democrat Beto O’Rourke also won it in his 2018 Senate race.
The population of Texas’ 24th District is more than half people of color, including a quarter Latino and 13% Black.
Van Duyne, who is white, declared victory on Election Day, days before the race was called. She is a fan of Trump and earned his endorsement. She formerly served as mayor of Irving, Texas, and worked for nearly two years in the Trump administration’s federal housing department.
Van Duyne lists among her main concerns on her campaign website the threat of “terrorist jihad” and socialism being “on the rise” in the U.S. She is against creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.
Valenzuela, who experienced homelessness as a child, told HuffPost in August that she was running because not many representatives “know the anxiety of not being able to pay the bills, of the pit in your stomach of not knowing if you have a home tomorrow.”
“If you have so much say over a system that is life or death for many Americans, somebody has to have experience with it,” said the former educator and mother of two who has lived in federally subsidized housing, used food stamps and attended public schools.
Valenzuela, who considers herself a progressive, didn’t run as far left as some other young progressives — a route that made sense politically in a district with significant Republican support. She didn’t push for “Medicare for All” but rather for a public option, with people making less than $50,000 fully covered and others getting 90% of costs covered. Similarly, she didn’t call for abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement but instead pushed for a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.
Valenzuela had received a number of high-profile endorsements, including from former President Barack Obama, EMILY’s List, Texas’s AFL-CIO, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), as well as Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).