State Rep. Mary Gonzalez made history Tuesday when she began her first day in the Texas Legislature.
Gonzalez is the first woman to represent the Lower Valley's District 75 in the Texas House and the first openly gay woman to be elected to the state Legislature.
"I'm really proud that we have broken a lot of glass ceilings on so many levels, but I've worked really hard not to let that distract from what we're trying to do," said Gonzalez, who identifies herself as "pansexual," or someone who is attracted to people regardless of their gender.
She said, "We're really trying to make a difference for the district to focus on infrastructure, education and economic development."
Gonzalez, the newest addition
to El Paso's five-member delegation, was sworn into office Tuesday in Austin as lawmakers from across the state convened for the start of the 83rd legislative session. She joined state Sen. Jose Rodriguez and state Reps. Joe Pickett, Marisa Marquez, Naomi Gonzalez and Joe Moody.
Moody returned to the state House after defeating Republican Dee Margo in their third matchup for the seat that represents parts of Northeast and West El Paso.
"Having been here and having lost that and not being here and watching what happened last session, the gravity of the job we have to do is not lost on me," Moody said. "I want people back in El Paso to know how much this means to me -- not for me, not for my family -- I want them to know this
is for them. I want to do well and make the people back at home proud."
As a top priority for the 140-day legislative session, both Moody and Gonzalez touted education, which will probably spur battles over funding, accountability and a plan to use taxpayer dollars to give vouchers to public school students whose parents would rather they attend private schools.
Moody shared goals that included securing research buildings for the University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech's Paul
L. Foster School of Medicine, creating a visitors center at Franklin Mountains State Park and making sure the University of Texas at El Paso is not kept from tapping into state funding for which it qualifies, money for which it was snubbed two years ago.
Gonzalez said she wants to bolster dairy farms in El Paso, pass legislation that sets up a structure for establishing zoning requirements around the soon-to-be Tornillo port of entry and create a state work-study program that would be piloted in El Paso.
But area Democratic lawmakers know that some of the items on their wish lists may prove tough to accomplish.
Republicans are the majority in the state Senate by 19 to 12 seats, and they dominate the state House with 95 of 150 seats occupied.
"I worry that with only 55 Democrats and 95 Republicans, it's going to be a lot harder to get things done," Gonzalez said. "As much as I want to do as much as I possibly can, there's the reality of political numbers to get things done. And so, that's why in order to be effective, I have to have short-term and long-term goals."
Moody's parents, Magdalena Morales-Moody and El Paso Judge Bill Moody, celebrated their son's persistence to return to the state Legislature after his 2010 loss to Margo. Joe Moody and his wife, Adrianne, had to move into a new home soon after their wedding because a change in political boundary lines would have kept Moody from seeking the office.
"It's just a very humbling experience that he's been given the opportunity to be back to serve the people of El Paso and continue the work he started," Magdalena Morales-Moody said. "It's very gratifying for all the work that he and Adrianne put forth and his team of campaign workers and family members."
Gonzalez's father, Alfred P. Gonzalez, said he initially tried to dissuade his daughter from running for office by encouraging her to finish her doctoral degree and to follow a different career path. But Mary Gonzalez never relinquished her political ambitions.
On Tuesday, her father sat proudly in his daughter's Capitol office.
"It's humbling," he said. "I'm very proud. I just want to be here to support her and wish her the best. I know it's not
an easy task."
Alfred Gonzalez, a Republican, said he believes his daughter, a Democrat, will be able to work effectively with both political parties. Still, he managed to have some fun with their party affiliations.
"I'm a very proud Republican," Alfred Gonzalez said. He joked, "I don't know how she ended up being a Democrat. I've thought about that many hours. 'What did I ever do to you, God?' "
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