By Jessica Weston-The Daily Independent
“This is a race that’s important. We need to win. And we need to build relationships and coalitions in order to do that.”
Those were the words of Democrat Tatiana Matta, the latest contender hoping to win 23rd Congressional District Representative Kevin McCarthy’s seat in the 2018 election. Matta joins Democrat Wendy Reed in the race against Republican McCarthy. Another Democratic candidate, Robert Owen, withdrew from the race last summer citing pressures on his family.
Matta met with members of Ridgecrest United and others Monday at Desert Valleys Federal Credit Union to introduce herself and share her plans.
She started with a little of her life story, which she said is key to understanding where she is coming from.
“I am a fierce advocate of community and I am going to tell you why,” she said.
Matta was born in Puerto Rico and raised by a single mother, who was a school teacher. She spent her formative years both in Delaware and in Puerto Rico. She is fluent in both English and Spanish.
A pivotal experience took place in Delaware when the house she was living in with her mother burned down. She said coming home from school she saw “a big orange ball of fire” where the house used to be. Her mother met her at the bus stop to assure her it would all be OK.
Matta and her mom spent the night at a homeless shelter.
“It was one of the hardest things I will ever do because we were left with nothing. Not even the two suitcases we came with. Nothing,” she said.
Despite the difficulties, the challenge taught her something important.
“A community rallied together to help us. My mom received help from the church, from a non-profit organization, from the government.”
The two got an apartment and her mom took two jobs to make ends meet, commuting by bus.
“It was a struggle,” Matta said. “but I discovered what a community can do to rally together to help people succeed. And we did use assistance programs. They were part of that. Without that, we would not have been able to succeed, period.”
Her mother also took her every Saturday to the library to take part in literacy programs and as a result, she tested into the English-speaking classes at her school in the fourth grade, an accomplishment she said made her very proud.
They returned to Puerto Rico, where Matta finished middle school at a Catholic school and graduated from a public high school.
Matta went on to earn a degree in criminal justice from the University of Puerto Rico. Particularly important to her was a class about women’s right to vote, which she said empowered and inspired her.
Along the way she married, had her son Kevin, divorced and married again. She and husband Eugenio Matta, a bio-environmental engineer, live at Edwards Air Force Base with Kevin.
Matta has been politically active as a military spouse, supporting veterans and military families. She also owns her own consulting business and has worked with non-profits and political candidates.
Her involvement in the Democratic party in Kern eventually led to the decision to run against McCarthy.
“After [Robert] Owen dropped out, I was looking where is the next candidate going to come from?” she said. “If you have a passion for something you have to push yourself forward.”
Regarding her desire for political change, Matta did not mince words.
“When this administration makes you ill and makes you say words you cannot repeat on Facebook, it’s really concerning as a mom, as a military spouse,” Matta said. “It is concerning at all levels and I cannot stay silent.”
Matta said she is aware she has a battle on her hands to defeat McCarthy, but said she thinks it can be done.
“It’s a hard battle, I am not going to lie. The numbers are hard, but it’s not impossible. We do need a community to rally around candidates up and down the valley.
“As a consultant, I know what we need to do. As an advocate, I know how to rally people together. As a mom I am fierce. This is what I am going to do. We just need to push through.”
A standing room only crowd of around 40 people packed the room at DVFCU. Matta gave those present ample time to weigh in with their concerns.
The meeting lasted over two hours, with nearly every person in the room (several of whom identified as Republicans or independent voters) sharing their views of the current administration, the GOP tax reform bill currently working its way through Washington D.C., and US politics in general.
Several people seemed close to tears as they voiced emotional frustrations with current politics. Topics of ranged from healthcare reform, environmental concerns and climate change, worries over the national debt, foreign policy, gender equality and women’s rights, care for seniors and the disabled and lots of discussion of the tax reform bill.
Matta listened attentively, taking notes. In response to questions, she said she supports retaining and fixing the Affordable Care Act, is concerned for senior citizens and supports gender equality and women’s right to chose.
She took on this last topic with an example from her own life. Matta said as a young pregnant woman, she was well aware of her right to choose and grateful for it. She said she profoundly loves her young son Kevin, who was in attendance at the meeting and even assisted his mom by handing out business cards afterward.
But she said choice should still be an option for every woman. “For myself, I am pro-life. But for all women I am pro-choice,” she said.
For more on Matta’s campaign, see http://tatianamatta.com/ or her Facebook page.