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
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.
National Leading From the Inside Out Alum
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.