By Rhashad R. Pittman
Virginia Madueño, the first Latina mayor of the City of Riverbank, has announced that she will run for Congress for the 10th Congressional District seat. If elected, she will more than likely be the first Latina to hold that office as well.
The 10th Congressional District seat represents roughly 700,000 residents in communities throughout Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, including the cities of Modesto, Tracy and Manteca. The seat is currently being held by Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican who has been in office since January 2013.
Madueño officially launched her campaign on Aug. 31 in her hometown of Riverbank with friends, family and supporters in attendance. Although a registered Democrat, the Modesto native hopes to work across party lines amid the divisiveness that has plagued Congress and much of the country. To do so, she must first win the Democratic primary election in June to be on the ballot for the general election that will take place In November 2018.
“Representing my community’s voice in Washington is a big responsibility,” Madueño said shortly before her official launch, “and I am asking this district to trust me to be their voice. And I am ready. I was born and raised in this district and know that I can bring the people of this community together. It’s what I’ve always done, and it’s what I will do as our next representative in Washington.”
Madueño said she is running mainly because she feels issues affecting local residents are not being adequately addressed. Some of the most pressing issues facing the district, she said, are immigration reform, access to healthcare, a lack of job opportunities, overburdened small businesses and education.
As a Modesto native, married mother of three boys and a small business owner herself, Madueño feels she has a deep understanding of the issues and a strong connection to local residents, particularly having been born to immigrant parents who worked the fields as they struggled financially to raise six children.
Some of the most pressing issues facing the district have played an integral role in her personal life, she noted, which fuels her passion to advocate for and find solutions to address them.
Madueño’s parents immigrated from Penjamillo, Michoacán, Mexico before she was born. Her three older siblings made the trek with her parents. So the ongoing political debate about whether a wall should be built along the U.S. Mexico border, or if those who crossed the border as young children with their families should be deported, can’t help but hit home.
“We need leadership who understands the true meaning of immigration reform, who believes immigrants are the very foundation of our American existence and who has the ability to touch on these issues with first-hand experience,” she said.
Madueño argued that Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship to “fix our broken immigration system and grow our economy.”
She added that deporting Dreamers was not the answer.
“I believe DACA recipients came to this country when they were children and were left in the shadows of our broken immigration system through no fault of their own,” Madueño said. “Our immigration system is broken, but deporting young people who have done nothing wrong from the only country they’ve ever known is not going to fix it.”
The recent attempt in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act also resonated with Madueño. Before the act, known as Obamacare, was passed, she struggled to get affordable healthcare herself due to a pre-existing childhood illness.
“I have a pre-existing condition and I was denied health insurance for nearly five years,” Madueño said.
“I am one of millions in America who had no health insurance for a long time because health insurance for a small business owner with a pre-existing condition was not available or was cost prohibitive.”
Although it isn’t perfect, she noted, the Affordable Care Act provides a strong foundation for the country to build upon. The next step, Madueño said, should be single payer health insurance.
Small Businesses and Jobs
Madueño has been a small business owner for more than 15 years. She owns Imagen PR, LLC, a public relations and marketing firm. Small businesses are a vital source of jobs and revenue for many communities, she said, yet they are overburdened with taxes and regulations.
“As a small business owner, I know that small business are the backbone of our local economy – and yet neither Sacramento nor Washington is on our side,” Madueño said. “We need leaders who will fight for us. For our valley.”
In addition to easing the tax and regulatory burdens that small business owners face, Madueño wants to raise the minimum wage for workers and increase investments in job training, higher education and vocational skills training.
She also wants to try to entice Silicon Valley companies to build satellite offices in the Central Valley to secure more high-paying jobs for the region and believes they have an incentive to do so since many of their workers commute from the area.
“If we’re already housing them here, doesn’t it make sense to create the same opportunities with Silicon Valley companies,” Madueño said.
In addition to being elected mayor of Riverbank in 2009, Madueño also served as vice president of the nonprofit organization El Concilio and vice president of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of California. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from CSU Stanislaus. In 2006 she was one of only 20 women selected for the National Hispana Leadership Institute Fellows Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
To prepare for her candidacy, Madueño has attended a number of public meetings and met with local community groups. She also plans to take part in a “listening campaign” to hear first-hand from local residents about what their most pressing needs and concerns are.
During the next couple of months, Madueño will hold at least 10 town halls throughout the district. Her first town hall was scheduled for Sept. 5.
“The residents I have had the opportunity to meet with are Democrats, Republicans, Independents – all looking for the same thing…to be able to provide for their families,” she said. “People in this valley are struggling to make ends meet, to provide an education for their children and to pay for basic living expenses. This campaign is not about me. It’s about them.”
By Rhashad R. Pittman