South Plains native running for major state political office - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/7/10

South Plains native running for major state political office

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - One of the candidates running for a major political office in Texas was born and raised on the South Plains. Linda Chavez-Thompson won the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor on Tuesday. Regardless of your party affiliation, this hometown girl has an incredible story.

"I was the daughter of a cotton sharecropper.  I remember at a very young age that he used to earn $30 a week. That wasn't much for a family of 9," said Chavez-Thompson. At the age of 10, she spent her summers working alongside her father hoeing cotton.

"They paid me a child's wages, which was 30 cents an hour," Chavez-Thompson said. When she turned 15, after her 9th grade year, she had to drop out of school to work full time and help support her family.

Despite her lack of formal education, Chavez-Thompson says she never stopped learning. "I learned a work ethic from my father working in Lorenzo and Idalou and Lubbock. A work ethic that apply yourself, learn to do other things," she said. 

At the age of 23, the Lubbock Labor Union hired her as a secretary for her bilingual skills.  From there she worked her way up, and become a major player in the labor movement on the state, national, and international levels.

"Perhaps, I don't have the degree, but I certainly on many occasions have gotten the degree of street smarts, and the ability to speak for sometimes people who have not had their voices heard," Chavez-Thompson said. 

In 1995 she moved to Washington D.C., and became the Executive Vice President of the national AFL-CIO.

"The first woman, the first woman of color, the first Hispanic, to ever hold a high level position within the American labor movement," she said. 

"Everywhere she's gone in her life, it's always been progressive. She's like a cat. You drop her from whatever height, and she always lands on her feet," said her cousin, Joe Chavez. 

Chavez-Thompson retired in 2007, but only a few years later decided to run for Texas Lieutenant Governor. She said she's always worked to give her children and grandchildren the opportunities she didn't have.

"The best lesson people could learn from her is to never give up and always work hard," said Joe Chavez. 

Linda Chavez-Thompson will run against Republican David Dewhurst in the general election.

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