Growing up, every child has a favorite T-shirt. Mine was baby blue and read in pink “A Woman’s place is in the House and Senate.” Therefore, it came as no surprise to those who knew me as a child when I became a candidate for the Congressional District that I have lived in for my entire life when U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement.
I was a nonpartisan School Board member for more than six years. Some of my former constituents were shocked to learn my party affiliation given my ardent defense of public education, pro-labor platform, and commitment to social services. In the months that followed, I repeatedly explained that I am and have always been a fiscal conservative and a moderate. And while well received by most, it was somewhat concerning to see how some reacted to the terms moderate, progressive or socially responsible Republican.
In Washington D.C., the tone was different as I responded to questions about left-leaning seats like District 27, and I explained that both Republicans and Democrats must stay relevant and embrace a spectrum of voices. As a parent of two children on the autism spectrum who has spent more than a decade educating people about their abilities instead of their disabilities and advocating for the benefit that their differences bring to society, the conversations were eerily similar.
Here is where I wish I could tell you that despite the social-media ruckus, deep down we all know that what makes the “American Experiment” a success are these very differences, that a large part of what makes our country great are the freedom and tolerance that we afford others who do not agree with our points of view. Sadly, however, I cannot.
As the granddaughter of political prisoner who spent two decades in prison and the daughter of a Peter Pan who was sent to this country as a child seeking freedom and who dedicated more than two decades to public service, the current political climate and the level of disrespect and disregard for the values that our nation is founded on is disheartening — on both sides of the aisle.
As immigration reform once again takes center stage, it is shocking that I find myself once again explaining why we must protect our DREAMers and the investment that our public-school systems have made in their futures. As a first-generation Hispanic woman who is thankful everyday for having been born in this country I am saddened that the first words that come to mind when we think of our national government is ineffective and circuslike.
So I announce that I am withdrawing as a candidate for Congressional District 27 because: I refuse to compromise my values and beliefs; I refuse to accept disrespect, intolerance, and vulgarity as our new norm; and I refuse to be part of this two-party pantomime. I am and will remain a moderate voice.
I will be forever grateful to those who have supported me in this and my prior endeavors. They have my commitment that I will continue to fight for our community, especially for the most vulnerable among us. But for now I will do so as a private citizen.
Raquel Regalado is a former member of the Miami-Dade County School Board and candidate for county mayor.