Pablo Gonzalez, a senior at Central Washington University, has entered the race for representative in the 15th Legislative District. He’s a moderate Democrat from a Latino background, and is running in the state’s only district with a Hispanic majority.
Pablo Gonzalez is no stranger to beginning the day in a race against the clock.
Like any college student, most days he leaves the house before he even has time to eat breakfast.
But unlike most college students who leave home without a second to spare, Gonzalez is not trying to catch a bus or make it to class on time. He is trying to win an election.
Hailing from a small town in the Yakima Valley and now finishing up his final quarters at Central Washington University, Gonzalez is gearing up to run for representative in the 15th Legislative District, position 2. He is the only Democrat in the race at this time, and the current representative, David Taylor (R), has not yet officially declared.
Gonzalez, a 21-year-old studying political science, organizational communication and Spanish, did not always plan to become a politician. After attending a meeting of the Washington State Democrats in Shelton earlier this year, he realized he was the youngest person there. His youth, and fresh perspective, inspired him to run for office in his home district.
“This is the field I want to go into because there are no young people creating policy,” Gonzalez said. “I think we need more young people involved.”
In Washington state, there is no age requirement to run for state representative. Candidates like Gonzalez must simply be registered voters and citizens of the United States, according to the state constitution.
Although Gonzalez has never held a public office, he feels that his experience in other organizations has given him the skills he needs to be a good candidate. Currently, he serves as an officer for the Washington State Latino Caucus. He also participated in the Washington State Student Advisory Committee in high school.
But it’s his experiences growing up and working on a farm in Zillah — population 3,000 — that makes him feel best prepared to represent his district’s interests.
“I’ve done all that agricultural work, and my area is entirely agriculture,” he said. “So growing up I learned hard work, and I feel like I have a better connection as a candidate with the farmers and their needs.”
In high school, Gonzalez worked in apple orchards, thinning and picking apples during the summers. With this agricultural background, as well as a stepdad who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. at a young age to work in agriculture, Gonzalez said he understands the needs of his district’s immigrant workers.
Thanks to this year’s redistricting of the state’s legislative and congressional districts, these immigrant workers will play a major role in the elections in Gonzalez’s district this November.
15th LD – old district in red, new in blue View Larger
The 15th District, which includes the east side of Yakima County, is the only district in the state with a majority Hispanic population. The district includes almost 75,000 Hispanics and close to 55,000 non-Hispanic or whites, according to the Washington State Redistricting Commission.
Gonzalez said that he hopes his community’s immigrant workers will see this redistricting as a chance to have their voices heard.
“I think that my area is a very important area for Latino people to come out and vote,” he said. “There’s a new majority and now it’s a good opportunity to try to make things a little bit better for the people who have established themselves and have families here.”
Besides representing the needs of the 15th District’s agricultural community, one of Gonzalez’s biggest concerns is education. He said that as a student, he can see firsthand the importance of passing legislation that stops the cuts and freezes to education funding.
“I want to demand a seat in the Higher Education Committee and make sure there is a person in there who understands the issue in a different way,” he said.
Gonzalez’s perspective would surely be unique. Unlike many of the representatives who maintain a professional career while in office, Gonzalez would carry on with his educational one.
During his last three years at CWU, Gonzalez has packed most quarters with 16 to 19 credits — 15 is average — in order to move more quickly toward graduation. Now that he is two quarters ahead of schedule, Gonzalez said he would be able to lighten his course load next year and especially during winter quarter, which would coincide with the 2013 legislative session.
For now, Gonzalez is devoting his time to developing campaign materials, working with a graphic designer to improve his campaign website, and fundraising. The latter of those tasks is unfamiliar territory for the aspiring politician.
“Getting money and raising funds is a little difficult because I never really asked for money from my parents,” he said. “It’s a little different for me to ask for money, but I guess you have to do it.”
According to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, Gonzalez has raised a little under $470 for his campaign. Most of this money, he said, came from small business owners and attorney George Fearing, the Washington State Democrats’ representative for the 4th Congressional District.
Once Gonzalez officially ramps up his campaign, he plans to utilize his Twitter and Facebook accounts, start registering people to vote and begin doing whatever else he can to introduce himself to people in his district.
“I have young legs,” he said. “I can walk my district three or four times.”
More than anything else, Gonzalez said he “just loves to talk to people,” and thinks that his ability to interact and understand people from many different backgrounds will win over voters in the 15th District.
“If I could stand in a room and talk to every voter for five minutes,” Gonzalez said, “I could probably get every single one of them.”