Cristina Tzintzun was terrified about what would happen to her own family after the 2016 election (her husband is a DREAMer from Mexico), so the 35-year-old veteran organizer founded Jolt Texas, a group aimed at mobilizing Latino voters that is at the forefront of the SB 4 resistance. Tzintzun isn’t new to organizing. Her previous effort, the still-active Workers Defense Project, was described by the New York Times as “one of the nation’s most creative organizations for immigrant workers.”
Cristina Tzintzun was named “Hero of the New South” by Southern Living Magazine and hailed by the New York Times for her success with Workers Defense Project (WDP). At just 24, Cristina co-founded WDP and helped pass half a dozen local and state laws to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of workers, guaranteeing them higher wages and safer working conditions. Cristina was also named a “changemaker” by the Texas Observer, and her work has been featured on NPR, USA Today, Univision and MSNBC’s Up Late with Alec Baldwin. Cristina is the author of the book “Presente! Latino Immigrant Voices in the Struggle for Racial Justice” and other works on race, class and gender.
- The University of Texas at Austin BA Latin American Studies 2004 – 2006.
- Upper Arlington High School
Becky Bond and Zack Malitz left Beto O'Rourke’s staff, less than a month after they’d helped the former Senate candidate rake in $6 million in the first day of his presidential campaign. It was seen, at the time, as a strategic shift for O’Rourke — away from the “big organizing” vision that drove his unexpectedly impactful 2018 Senate run. Now, Social Practice, the firm created by Bond and Malitz, who also worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign for president, is turning its “big organizing” vision toward Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, who on Monday announced her run for Senate in Texas.
Tzintzun Ramirez, a longtime organizer and the founder of a Texas-based nonprofit that mobilizes young Latino voters, is the latest candidate to jump into a crowded Democratic primary race for the Senate seat currently held by Republican John Cornyn — but she may be the Democrats’ best bet, considering her team and progressive platform.
Tzintzun Ramirez, who describes herself as a proud Irish Mexican American, is embracing progressive policy stances like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, “massive divestment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” and rejecting all corporate PAC money. She also plans to roll out a “bold” immigration plan meant to “protect the rights of immigrant workers and families.”
And the 37-year-old hopeful’s campaign will be stacked with veterans from O'Rourke’s 2018 Senate race: Malitz, a key player on the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign who went on to help create O'Rourke’s massive field operation in 2018, will serve as a senior adviser on Tzintzún Ramirez’s campaign. Katelyn Coghlan, former statewide deputy field director for O’Rourke’s campaign in 2018, will be campaign manager, and Ginny Goldman, co-founder of the Texas Organizing Project, will be a campaign chair. Bond said that she’ll also be helping Ramirez.
Malitz said that the campaign is hoping to raise $100,000 in the first 24 hours of the campaign and that early indications suggested the goal was attainable.
Tzintzún Ramirez’s campaign plans on unseating the three-term GOP incumbent through the mobilization of the kind of voters that the political system has “underestimated and discounted,” like young voters and people of color, Tzintzún Ramirez explained. Unlike the establishment Democrats who run to the middle to try to peel off mythical moderate voters, the campaign hopes to prove that a progressive can win statewide by energizing a diverse coalition of voters.
And she comes with more than a decade of organizing experience, including her time as the executive director of Jolt Texas, which describes itself as the largest progressive Latino organization in the state, and as a co-founder of the Workers Defense Project, an Austin-based immigrant workers group that focuses on the construction industry.
“I’m not a career politician, I have not previously run for office,” she said. “I was recruited to run by folks that I think really wanted to have a candidate that represents the ordinary Texan and to advocate for their interests, to protect their rights, and fight for them.”
So far, Tzintzún Ramirez is the fifth serious contender to join the primary race. She’ll have to catch up to M.J. Hegar, an Air Force veteran who narrowly lost a 2018 House race in a Republican-leaning district. State Sen. Royce West and Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards are also running.
There are two other progressive candidates already in the race, Chris Bell, a former congressman, and Sema Hernandez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who challenged O’Rourke for the 2018 nomination, winning 24 percent of the vote. Hernandez, who has yet to file with the Federal Elections Commission, sayst she has no plans to cede the race to Ramirez. She said she met with Ramirez in summer 2018, hoping Ramirez would offer her a job as an organizer at Jolt, but Ramirez wanted to lobby her to endorse O’Rourke, which Hernandez ultimately did. She said she told Ramirez she planned to run against Cornyn, and Ramirez advised against it, suggesting she run for a position like city council first. Ramirez jumping into the crowded field, she said, was a betrayal. “If you support Latinas in office, why didn’t you support me?”
Tzintzún Ramirez makes the case that she’s uniquely equipped to mobilize Latino voters, who are poised to become the largest nonwhite eligible voting bloc next year. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Jolt knocked on the doors of 40,000 Latino voters, many of whom had never voted before. The advocacy group also made headlines for its voter engagement efforts at quinceañeras, the Hispanic tradition celebrating a young girl’s coming of age. Similarly, Tzintzún Ramirez said the campaign’s Latino outreach strategy will be “more grounded in cultural community events,” with a particular focus on young people on college campuses.
Senate run recruitment
A group of progressive Democratic operatives is looking to draft one of the state's top organizers of the Latino vote into running for U.S. Senate, a move that could further shake up Texas' still-unsettled primary to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
The group is focused on Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, the founder and executive director of Jolt, a nonprofit she started three years ago to mobilize young Latinos in Texas politics. She also is a co-founder of the Workers Defense Project, an older Austin-based group that fights for labor rights.
Tzintzun Ramirez is not publicly commenting on the Senate race. But among those encouraging her to run are Ginny Goldman, founding executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, and Zack Malitz, field director for Beto O'Rourke's blockbuster U.S. Senate campaign last year, according to Democratic sources.
Tzintzun Ramirez's fans see her as the right person at the right time — not unlike O'Rourke, a congressman who went from statewide obscurity to coming within 3 percentage points of the state's junior GOP senator, Ted Cruz.
"I think she would be a very strong candidate," said Mustafa Tameez, a Houston-based Democratic strategist who is not involved in the draft effort. "There are people that have the kind of background, life history, that fits the time in which we are. Those people tend to take off, and we saw that in Beto O'Rourke. ... It was just the right timing and the right place to be. When I heard her name, I thought the same thing."
The effort to recruit Tzintzún Ramirez underscores how the primary is still taking shape, even after MJ Hegar, the former U.S. House candidate, entered the race in mid-April and raised over $1 million. Former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston has since made clear he is running, and the field is likely to grow further in the coming weeks. State Sen. Royce West of Dallas, who is viewed as likely to run, has scheduled an announcement for July 22. And Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards is also moving closer to a campaign.
"I think there's a lot of room available in this primary where there's not one like Castro who ran and it would've been a done deal," said veteran national Democratic operative Gilberto Ocanas, referring to Joaquin Castro, the San Antonio congressman who decided against a run earlier this year. "I think you have a lot more open."
As for Tzintzun Ramirez, Ocanas said she has "great potential," pointing the two influential organizations she helped build at relatively young ages and her ability to appeal to not just Latino voters but millennial Latino voters who hold the keys to the state's political future. Ocañas' wife, Ana "Cha" Guzman, is on Jolt's Leadership Council.
Tzintzun Ramirez spent 12 years at the helm of the Workers Defense Project, helping turn it into a group nationally known for its labor and immigrant advocacy. The group recently helped to lead the charge for paid sick leave ordinances in Austin and other cities. She founded Jolt in November 2016, shortly after President Donald Trump's election, setting out to register and mobilize Latino voters.
Associates describe Tzintzún Ramirez as one of the most data-driven, knowledgeable organizers in Texas when it comes to the Latino vote — and someone whose political outlook goes far beyond the current election cycle, regardless of whether she decides to run for Senate.
"I think Cristina is intent on building a sustained movement of progressive and young Latino voters, and any decision that she makes is about not only their vote in 2020 but especially their vote in 2022 and 2024," said Eugene Sepulveda, chairman of the Jolt Leadership Council. "Any decision that she makes will be at least as much about the next governor's race as this senatorial race."
Barbara Fetonte August 12 2019.
This is very exciting. Both Danny and me have worked with Cristina. She is a phenomenal person. She is a great organizer. She can beat Cornyn. This is a woman with integrity. Please support her by donating to her campaign. Both Danny and me will work hard on her campaign.
Michael Kieschnick August 12 2019.
I am excited that Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez has joined the race to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate to take on and defeat the odious John Cornyn. Both campaigns will be arduous. The rising new electorate of Texas will be excited by Cristina. As an aging but proud Texan, it is time for a change.
"Rally Against Robbery"
Rally Against Robbery: Shine a Light on the #GOPTaxScam Hosted by Indivisible Austin and 10 others
Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM CST, Austin City Hall
If you think the tax bill being considered by Congress will harm Texans, please come to this nonviolent rally to send a powerful message to ALL Texas politicians both in the US Congress and the Texas Legislature. IF NOT NOW - WHEN!!!
- Gina Hinojosa, Texas House of Representatives
- Gregorio Casar, Austin City Council
- Cristina Tzintzun, Jolt
- Selina Fernandez, Southwestern University student & activist
ADAPT of Texas, ADC-Austin Chapter, Austin Democratic Socialists of America, Children's Defense Fund - Texas, , Indivisible Austin, Indivisible SATX, Jolt, Left Up to Us, Muslim Solidarity ATX, NASW Texas, Our Revolution - Central Texas, Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, , TARA (Texas Alliance for Retired Americans) Austin, Texas Sierra Club, TX10 Indivisible, TX21 Indivisible, TXLEGE Indivisible, Voto Latino.
National Leading From the Inside Out Alum
Cristina Tzintzun is the Founder of Jolt, a Texas-based multi-issue organization that builds the political power and influence of Latinos. Previously she served as the Executive Director of Workers Defense Project (WDP), a statewide, membership-based workers' rights organization that is winning better working conditions for Texans. At WDP, She spearheaded efforts to ensure safe and dignified jobs for the nearly 1,000,000 construction workers that labor in the state. Cristina's work has led to a federal investigation by OSHA into Texas' deadly construction industry, the passage a statewide wage theft law, and better, safer jobs for thousands of low-wage workers in Austin and Travis County. She has been named “Hero of the New South” by Southern Living Magazine and won the national Trabajadora Community Leader award from the National Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Cristina's work has been covered in the New York Times, National Public Radio, and USA Today.
Mike Siegel for Congress - TX-10, December 3, 2017:
Yesterday I had the distinct honor of sitting on a panel with Vanessa Rodriguez and Cristina Tzintzun of Jolt Texas to discuss the Senate Bill 4 litigation, statewide organizing of Latino voters, and how to support the movement of DACA youth. Thanks to the Capital Factory and Ainee Athar for the invitation. I am inspired by the work of Vanessa, Christina and countless others in fighting for justice and fair immigration policies, and will stand in solidarity with their work through my campaign.
- The Intercept, FORMER O’ROURKE ORGANIZERS RALLY BEHIND NEW TEXAS SENATE CANDIDATE Aída Chávez August 12 2019
- Texas Tribune Some progressive Democrats are urging a top Latina organizer to run for U.S. Senate BY PATRICK SVITEK JULY 12, 2019
- Against Robbery: Shine a Light on the GOP Tax Scam Posted on December 4, 2017 by Indivisible Austin