A Latina Is Running To Be Mayor Of Salt Lake City And Her Views Are Slight Departures From Her Mormon Faith
For all the hardship and trauma inflicted on Latinos since Trump’s 2016 presidential victory, there has been an equal rise in Latinas giving voice to power through political office. The 2018 midterms gave Latinos a refreshing glimpse of hope for the future and has ignited a swell of women running for office.
Luz Escamilla has been ahead of that welcome uprising and is enjoying her third term as a Democratic Senator for Utah. Now, she’s running to become the mayor of the state’s capital, Salt Lake City. If she wins, she’d become the first person of color to represent the metropolitan city, a blue-voting population surrounded by a deep sea of red.
Luz Escamilla is a Mexican immigrant and was inspired to run for office in 2007, after a shockingly degrading policy move that treats first-generation Americans as second-class citizens.
Escamilla was the director of the state Office of Ethnic Affairs when she listened to a Republican legislator dismiss equal education opportunities for “anchor babies” in a legislative committee hearing. The offensive term is used by anti-immigrant folks to describe American born children of noncitizen parents. She told The Salt Lake Tribune that she was in shock. Nobody in the room, including Democratic legislators, said anything.
Later, they told her that those children were not their “constituency.” She knew that Utah needed a representative who would adequately represent the most basic needs of marginalized immigrants.
Since 2000, the Latino population in Utah has doubled, making up 14 percent of Utah’s population.
Latinos have flocked to Salt Lake City, a liberal hub in the otherwise deeply red state. Today, Latinos are the largest minority of Utah’s total population. As mayor, Escamilla will prioritize the families and children of Salt Lake City. She wants the city to help provide affordable, high-quality childcare for working parents, after school programs, and simplify access to healthcare by providing nurses and counselors to every Salt Lake City school.
Escamilla would also become the first Mormon to serve as Salt Lake City’s mayor in 30 years.
While that fact may not be a problem for the rest of Utah, Salt Lake City residents are wondering how The Church of Latter-Day Saints’ belief system might be adapted as city policy. Like many practitioners of religion, Escamilla doesn’t see eye to eye on everything with her church. As Senator, she’s voted to ban conversion therapy, an effective hate crime against LGBTQ+ people.
Knowing the LGBTQ+ community becomes leery after learning someone’s religion of choice discriminates against their basic rights, Escamilla has made a concerted effort during her campaign to ensure LGBTQ+ people know she’s on their side. Escamilla walked in SLC’s Pride Parade and tabled at the festival wearing a rainbow patterned serape. She’s also voted to loosen restrictions on alcohol sales.
Among her top three issues are clean air and homelessness.
Homelessness is a multi-faceted issue, that Escamilla plans to tackle from SLC’s unique perspective. She wants to convene the forces of the public sector and non-profit and private sectors alike to share resources and research at getting to the root of the problem. In the meantime, her short-term plan is to invest in shelters and make more beds available during winter months.
As air pollution worsens, asthma rates skyrocket, and Escamilla wants to get at the source. Escamilla will first work towards creating a stronger public transportation system, which she calls “active transportation.” She hopes residents will feel more compelled to walk or ride than hop in their cars, reducing air pollution. Then, Escamilla will then redesign city-owned buildings to become as sustainable as possible while using as few resources as possible.
Escamilla has been endorsed by many Democrats, including a March for Life co-founder.
Escamilla was born in Tijuana, México, and moved to the United States in 1996. She finished high school in San Diego and moved to Utah to attend the University of Utah, where she majored in Business Marketing. She later earned a Master’s in Public Administration, after working in the nonprofit sector to help end domestic violence. Escamilla has since served 11 years in Congress and has passed legislation that creates after school programs, healthcare access and clean air for all.
In a meet-and-greet reported by the Los Angeles Times, Escamilla told the crowd, “I’ve always had people tell me, ‘Voters will never elect a Mexican. They’ll never elect an immigrant. Now they’re bringing up my religion. People have been trying to put me in a box forever. It’s not going to work. I’m not just one thing.”
READ: Regina Romero Won The Democratic Primary In Tucson And Now Has The Chance To Be The City’s First Latina Mayor
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