A Q&A with Sol Flores: “I’ve been so inspired by women in public service.”
A Q&A with Sol Flores, who’s #OffTheSidelines running in Illinois’ 4th Congressional District to be the first Latina to represent the state in Congress. Click here to learn more about Sol and get involved in her campaign.
Tell us your story and how you came to run for Congress.
I was born and raised in Chicago, and my passion for service really started with my family. I had these perspectives of service, of politics, of community right in front of me all the time. For the past 16 years I’ve been the founding executive director of La Casa Norte, the largest provider of services to homeless youth in Chicago. Through that work, I’ve learned you have to have diverse voices at the table to bring about real change.
I know we can effect change when we have the right kind of political and moral will in our leaders. That’s what got me so excited to run — along with the president’s budget cuts to social services, which would be devastating to communities in need. I stayed up all night watching the results come in that November night in 2016, and I was flabbergasted. The misogyny, all the -isms that happened around that election really affected me. So even though I had never aspired to elected office, when I had the opportunity, I thought: “Wow, do I have to put my money where my mouth is? Do I have to put skin in the game in a whole other way, if I truly believe in equity in representation?”
There have been so many times I have walked into rooms where I’ve been the only woman at the table, or the only woman of color, or the only person of color talking about community issues. So I thought, “Yeah, I’ve got to raise my hand and do something about this.” That’s why I said yes to running, and it’s why I’m still so excited about the opportunity to serve.
Who do you look to as a mentor or for inspiration?
Women, absolutely. I’ve been so inspired by women in public service. Running for Congress is definitely difficult. It presses you in many ways: emotionally, physically, socially, financially. It is all-encompassing, and it brings to the surface all your talents and passions — the issues you’re ready to go to the mat for.
But running for office also surfaces an opportunity to learn what you don’t know, to get coached and be supported so you have all the tools you need to implement your ideas and succeed. I’m proud to have the support of Illinois’ first Latina state senator, Iris Martinez. She is a powerhouse of energy, and she’s really been an incredible voice about the lack of access women have had. Women of color, and Latinas in particular, have been last to the table all the time.
What issues drive you most as a candidate?
I’m so honored to potentially be the first Latina to represent Illinois in Congress, but there are other communities I’m equally proud to represent during my campaign. Over the years, I’ve stood as a fierce ally of the LGBTQ community — not just because it’s the right thing to do, which it absolutely is — but because I’ve also been a victim of discrimination. I’ve been called out or left behind or not considered because of the color of my skin, and for me it’s a human rights issue, a civil rights issue, to remove prejudice and discrimination.
What advice would you share with other women who are interested in running?
I would encourage other women to take advantage of the resources available to get educated and informed about running for elected office. Whether it’s a local training seminar or a national group, there are so many resources out there to help you prepare for the structure or technical language of running for office. I only did a little bit of that, because I never thought I would run! So I’m trying to do that now, and it’s so helpful.
The other thing I would say to women considering running for office is to surround yourself with people who know and love you. They’ll know what really moves you, what inspires you, what will get you out of bed after an exhausting day. It’s so important to stay grounded in your community with the people who’ve helped you get to where you are today — and will support you to get where you’re going.