An appointee of former President Barack Obama is diving into the Democratic race to determine the nominee against incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions.
Lillian Salerno, who served as President Barack Obama’s deputy undersecretary of rural development for the Department of Agriculture, will officially launch her candidacy for Congress on Tuesday at Randall Park in Dallas.
“I have the ability to bring people together, find common ground and make sure the vulnerable are protected,” Salerno told The Dallas Morning News. “If you’re going to beat Pete Sessions, the people of the district have to believe that they’ve got somebody who’s got their back.”
Salerno, 56, was born at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and raised in East Dallas. She moved back to the city this year after serving under Obama from 2012-2017.
She’s a small businesswoman who led a company that developed retractable needles to protect health care workers from being stuck and infected by diseases like HIV.
Salerno, who has had a long career in politics, said that it was time to run for public office and that Sessions’ policies on health care and other issues made Congressional District 32 the right fit.
“Sometimes you just do it,” she said. “The people are so much better than the politicians. … I knew I would get back to Texas.”
Salerno joins a crowded field for the Democratic nomination, including civil rights lawyer and Obama appointee Colin Allred and nonprofit executive and Hillary Clinton strategist Ed Meier.
National Democrats have targeted Sessions in the 2018 midterm elections. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to this point, has remained neutral in the primary race.
Allred and Meier have been in the race for months, but Salerno says she has an advantage.
“They are wet behind the ears,” Salerno said. “They don’t have the experience I do.”
Allred was a special assistant in the Housing Department under Julian Castro. And Meier oversaw the military-to-civilian transition in Iraq for the State Department before joining Clinton’s campaign.
Blake Davis, Meier’s campaign manager, said “Ed welcomes Lillian Salerno to the race, but is focused on taking the fight to Pete Sessions and bringing much needed change to the TX-32.”
Allred’s campaign aides could not be reached for comment late Monday night.
Voter go to the polls in the Democratic primary March 6.
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