Georgette Gomez, president of the San Diego City Council, was born and raised in the city she now serves, just 15 miles from the Mexican border that her parents, Eusebia and Miguel Ángel Gomez, crossed without documents in 1973. Her parents worked multiple jobs to make ends meet and instilled in their daughter a dual sense of industriousness and hope.
“I don't take that for granted that they left their own country, their own language, their culture, their family, just to create a better path for us, and when they came here it wasn't easy,” said Gomez, 43, the youngest of three children. “This was not a welcoming country to them and still isn't to immigrants.”
Immigrant rights is an issue that weighs heavily on Gomez, who is vying this November to become the next representative of California's 53rd Congressional District.
“It's something that I've been fighting for and will continue to push forward, to defend immigrants, to defend immigrant rights, to move this country to start addressing comprehensive immigration reform,” Gomez told NBC News.
Gomez, a Democrat, was elected to the city council in 2016 and unanimously appointed president two years later. In 2017, she introduced a resolution against President Donald Trump’s proposal to build a border wall with Mexico. The resolution was adopted by the council. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, didn’t sign the resolution but did not veto it either.
“The fact that I was able to get my Republican mayor to support it was pretty significant,” Gomez said, “and shows that I can push on critical issues that, at times, could be divisive.”
The candidate is passionate about affordable housing and protecting the most vulnerable citizens of San Diego, where soaring rents have made life increasingly difficult for the poor and working class. Gomez introduced an ordinance making it illegal for landlords to discriminate against renters who rely on federal housing assistance, and introduced an eviction moratorium to protect renters during the Covid-19 pandemic — both of which influenced similar laws at the state level, she said.
“I'm very proud of that,” Gomez added. “Our state, our city, our nation should be inclusive of all our community members, and they should be allowed to live wherever they are able to find a home that they can afford.”
Gomez, a former community organizer for an environmental justice group, is also a champion for environmental protections. As city council president, she helped pass a policy that aims to move San Diego to 100 percent renewables by 2035.
The candidate is waging a tough battle against a fellow Democrat, Sara Jacobs, who worked for the State Department in the Obama administration and is a former adviser to Hillary Clinton. (In California, the top two candidates in the primary compete in the general election.)
A recent 10News/San Diego Union-Tribune poll put Jacobs ahead of Gomez, but Gomez has fought tough challenges before. In her 2015 City Council campaign, she narrowly beat Ricardo Flores, then the chief of staff to outgoing council member Marti Emerald,by less than 1,000 votes, “against all odds," she said.
“We were able to build a strong grassroots campaign, and all of that, really, is in honor of my parents,” Gomez said. “They taught me that if you work hard, you push hard, and you get involved, and continue pushing to create a government that is accountable to all of us, then things change, and definitely that value, those principles, I always carry them with me.”
Gomez, who said she is queer, will be the first openly LGBTQ Latina in Congress if elected. She is part of a rainbow wave of at least 574 LGBTQ candidates who will be on the ballot next month, according to a new report by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a group that trains, supports and advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer candidates. As women, minorities, and LGBTQ candidates fill the Democratic Party’s ranks, Gomez said there is an “opportunity to have a greater evolution in the party.”
"We need to ensure that we're electing more progressives that are rooted in community, that understand and have lived through the issues that a majority of our constituents are living through," she said. "That's the way that you shape policies. ... Our party also needs to understand and reflect those needs."
A supporter of the Affordable Care Act and "Medicare for All," Gomez supports making the U.S. health care system more affordable and inclusive. It’s personal for the candidate, who recently discovered that her own health insurance could deny her fertility coverage because she is in a same-sex relationship.
“We still have a health care system that is excluding our LGBTQ community needs, and that has to change,” she said, noting that transgender people can also be denied coverage for transition-related care.
If elected, Gomez said she is “extremely committed” to ensuring “we move forward progressive solutions.”
“I have the leadership to prove that I can move on issues that are normally divisive,” Gomez said. “And that's the leadership that I'll be bringing to Congress, and it will be standing against whatever Donald Trump continues to move forward.”