by Gabriella Cázares-Kelly
With your help, last month I won 65% of the vote in my primary election and I am now on my way towards making history in Pima County. When I am elected, I will become the first Native American to hold an elected Pima County office and only the third Native American to hold a countywide seat in the state.
With all of the momentum and support behind my campaign, you may be surprised to learn that I almost decided against running in the first place. The decision I was facing had nothing to do with my passion, vision, or self-confidence: the deciding factor was money.
I made the decision to run for Recorder in September 2019, but a few weeks later, I faced an enormous stumbling block when the engine died in my family’s primary vehicle. I was devastated. Just like millions of other working-class individuals, I could not afford the large and unexpected expense of an engine repair. Not only was I concerned about how I’d get to work every day, but I knew that being a candidate for public office absolutely required a reliable vehicle to interact with voters.
Recognizing that unless I got the repair I would have to give up on my campaign before I even announced it, I humbly and reluctantly created a fundraising page. I was floored when after just a few days, friends, colleagues, and supporters of my organizing efforts all chipped in to meet my goal. With each donation came notes: “We need you!” “I admire your work.” “Your voice is important!” “Gabriella 2020!” I hadn’t even announced I was planning to run yet.
The majority of my supporters and donors are educators, community organizers, women, people of color, union members, and members of the working class. Although I solved my problem, it quickly became clear to me why people like us lack representation in government. These spaces weren’t designed for me, and they weren’t designed for you either. A candidate typically has to have significant financial resources before they are even considered remotely competitive.
The fact that a vehicle repair almost took me out of the running is exactly the reason why I need to be elected. I understand the needs of working-class voters because I am a working-class voter. My friends and family are regular constituents, working paycheck to paycheck, who have never had the resources to be able to run for public office.
I may not have the personal financial resources to match other candidates, but what I do have is the support of this community. Through people power, we can achieve anything.
Labor Day is an observation of the struggles of the labor union movement, and the celebration of the achievements of ordinary working-class people who, bound together in common purpose, have lifted millions out of poverty and continue to fight for economic and social justice in the 21st century.