INDIO – Elizabeth Romero, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Governmental & Community Relations at UC Riverside, is one of two Democrats vying to fill the vacant seat in the 28th state Senate District.

The seat was vacated on Nov. 1 when Jeff Stone resigned to take a seat in the Trump Administration.

She is no stranger to running a campaign, winning, and holding elected office. Romero, 36, ran for re-election to the Riverside County Board of Education Trustee to represent Area 6 in California. She won in the general election on June 5, 2018. Her current term ends in 2022.

The special election for the 28th District State Senate seat will be held March 3, 2020, to coincide with the Democratic Presidential Primary. Others seeking the seat are Democrat Joy Silver, 64, a retired businesswoman, and Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, 50. Silver sought the seat in 2018 but lost to Stone.

The 28th Senate District, which is entirely in Riverside County, stretches from the vineyards of the Temecula Valley to the Colorado River and includes the cities of Blythe, Canyon Lake, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio, Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, Murrieta, Temecula, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Wildomar.

As the two-month race begins in earnest, Uken Report posed a series of questions to Romero. Following are responses.

Uken Report (UR): Spouses name, occupation?

Romero: Louie, student and small business owner

UR: Children and ages?

Romero: Aaron Eduardo, 1

UR: Why do you want to be a state Senator?

Romero: My service and my drive are rooted in my values and upbringing.  My grandfather came to this country as a bracero in the 1940s. My mother and father later immigrated from El Salvador and Mexico, respectively to the U.S. to help to get our family ahead.  My mother toiled in the Eastern Coachella Valley fields as a farmworker and my father spent 40 years working for the Riverside County Transportation Department as a heavy equipment operator and a proud LiUNA Local 777 member. Their sacrifices allowed me to attend public schools, pursue higher education and a life of public service.

For the last twenty years, I have served our community in a variety of capacities including as a Legislative Assistant for two Riverside County Board of Supervisors, Founding Manager for the Eastern Coachella Valley Building Healthy Communities Initiative, Director of Community & Government Relations at Planned Parenthood and currently serve as an Assistant Vice Chancellor at UC Riverside, my alma mater.

In 2006, I was first elected to the Coachella Valley Unified School District at the age of 23. I currently serve as a trustee on the Riverside County Board of Education representing over 447,000 Riverside County residents.

We face challenges as a region and as a nation. Even in a booming economy, we are experiencing income and opportunity inequalities with stagnant wages and rising costs for daily living expenses like childcare, food, and housing. There is a housing crisis with unprecedented homelessness. We must address the climate crisis and find a solution to clean up the Salton Sea. We have to protect our communities, especially from the threats of natural disasters.

The challenges that we have before us, as daunting as they are, are not impossible to tackle. We need an effective, principled, proven, and experienced leader that can deliver results to our region. We are at an inflection point for our community: we can flip this seat and elect new leadership that is focused less on sound bites and more on real results for the district!

That is why I decided to run in the special election for the 28th Senate District.

I’m committed to be a leader in the fight for quality schools, career technical education and affordable college. I am committed to addressing the state’s affordability crisis and advancing inclusive economic growth and opportunity. I will work to ensure access to quality healthcare, lower drug prices and make sure our seniors and people with disabilities are able to stay in their homes and live with dignity. I will stand with our immigrant and LGBTQIA+ communities, and defend worker’s rights.

UR: What qualifications do you have?

Romero: Ability to build consensus and work with people from all backgrounds to accomplish real results. As an example:

  • While working at Planned Parenthood, I co-directed efforts that enrolled over 17,000 new people in the Affordable Care Act.
  • Served as the founding manager for the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Initiative in the Eastern Coachella Valley (now Alianza). This resulted in a multi-million investment by The California Endowment and other philanthropic organizations in the Eastern Coachella Valley. I brought together over 80 groups to address issues including transportation, healthcare access, housing, infrastructure, school climate, recreation, and food access.
  • I worked with regional and statewide legislators to secured $100 million for the UC Riverside School of Medicine to expand the number of primary care doctors and helped secure an additional $15 million for telepsychiatry healthcare to address the mental health crisis in medically underserved communities in the state.
  • I have worked intensively to improve educational opportunities for children and students. Under my leadership, Riverside County has achieved a graduation rate above 90%. As a school board member for Coachella Valley Unified School District, I helped implement a comprehensive alternative to suspension and expulsion policy (long before restorative justice was a common practice) that helped change the district culture and improved educational outcomes for students. Now, at the countywide level we have also expanded similar supportive services to students throughout Riverside County.

I was born and raised in Riverside County. I have dedicated my personal and professional life to improving the lives of Inland Empire residents. In addition to presently being an elected member of the Riverside County Board of Education and working as the Asst. Vice Chancellor of Governmental & Community Relations at UCR, I have worked with a cross-section of stakeholders in many initiatives that have made a tangible impact on the lives of the people in the 28th Senate District, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Board of Directors, Desert Regional Medical Center;
  • Board of Directors, Regional Access Project Foundation, Inc.
  • Board of Directors, Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert;
  • Coachella Valley Economic Partnership
  • Member, Greater Coachella Valley Chambers of Commerce;
  • Desert Arc and CSUSB Center for Developmental Disabilities;
  • Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest;

UR: What issues are you running on and why?


Quality Education

As an Assistant Vice Chancellor at UC Riverside, I understand the barriers that students face. I will advocate for high-quality schools, affordable college and job training to prepare students for high-wage, 21st century jobs.

Access to Healthcare

I will fight for expanded access to healthcare, including preventative and urgent care, mental healthcare and services for seniors and our most vulnerable communities.

Affordable Housing

California’s housing prices are out of reach for too many people.  I will address the affordability crisis by working to streamline regulations and provide incentives to quickly build the kind of diverse housing we need.

Economic Opportunity and Regional Prosperity

I will work to strengthen our middle class by bringing emerging job sectors to Riverside County, including clean energy, healthcare and advanced manufacturing high-wage jobs that provide healthcare benefits and retirement security. I will work to fix the Salton Sea, leverage transportation and infrastructure investments, and ensure our region has the resources it needs to maintain public safety, especially related to natural disasters like fires and flooding.

UR: Who are your political mentors and why?

Romero: I have been fortunate to count several mentors, including in my capacity as an elected official. My family has definitely influenced my decision to serve my community. The late Supervisor Roy Wilson was one of my first mentors, he was an incredible leader because he genuinely cared about people. He led with humility and authenticity. He focused on the real issues that were impacting our region and sought to find solutions in a bipartisan manner. As a Democrat, he embraced me and gave me opportunities to lead in our district. I will forever be grateful to him for his guidance.

While working for the Supervisor, I met Leticia DeLara, Supervisor Wilson’s former Chief of Staff who I also consider a great friend and early mentor. Lety was a farmworker, pursued higher education and rose through the county ranks. Throughout her career she has also been a voice for our vulnerable and underserved communities.

I am inspired by many of the leaders we all have read about such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Rigoberta Menchú, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Gloria Steinem, Turana Burke, Cecile Richards, Oprah and many others.

I am also inspired by the next generation of changemakers such as Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Alicia Garza and our local leaders like the late Rodolfo Pinon, Milly Trevino Sauceda, Megan Beaman-Jacinto, Father Lincoln and our youth advocates.

UR: Is there anything you would like to add?

Romero: It would be an honor to represent our region in the California State Senate. It is important that everyone come out to vote in this March 3rd special election.

To learn more about me and take action to support our movement, click here.

Image Sources

  • Elizabeth Romero: Elizabeth Romero