Meet Lillian Salerno - Lillian Salerno for Congress Meet Lillian Salerno - Lillian Salerno for Congress

Meet Lillian

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A lifetime of fighting for the people.

I am a native Texan, entrepreneur, attorney, and an advocate for healthcare workers, nurses, and patients. I was honored to serve the people as an appointee in the Obama administration where I worked to help alleviate poverty and improve the economy for underserved communities in rural America. I grew up in East Dallas one of nine children where we learned the value of hard work helping the family make ends meet. I started my first company here in Texas when I was twenty-five. My life’s been devoted to growing small businesses and fighting on their behalf against corporate concentration.

I’ve stood up to Congress and won policy debates. I’ve written and passed legislation to protect nurses and to prevent HIV in children. I’ve defended family farmers, forgotten communities and small businesses decimated by corporate takeover. Now, I’m ready to take that fight to the halls of Congress, and be a tireless advocate for the working men and women of Texas. Congress has enough members that go along to get along with the special interests and power brokers. I’ll be a fighter for the people because I am you and you are me.

My story

I was born the 6th of nine children at Baylor hospital here in Dallas. My father’s father was an immigrant from Italy who started a shoe repair shop in what is now the Adolphus Hotel. I grew up in East Dallas and knew at a young age about the value of community. Our safety net was our extended family and the Dallas community. I remember all the help my mom’s sister, both of my grandmothers, the Catholic community, and others gave to our family.  But for the community and sheer grit, who knows how things would have turned out for my family. I received Pell grants and low-interest loans so that I could attend the University of Texas. I was able to make ends meet between waitress jobs and thankfully UT had a low-cost health plan. I want all kids in Dallas to grow up with the same kind of community and safety net that I had growing up. I feel certain that a person in my same situation but with a different skin color had it rougher and I want to end these economic injustices.

I returned to Dallas after college and waited tables at night while starting my first company helping people find jobs. I learned then and have never forgotten how one’s work can define their view of the world. I loved finding jobs for people and watched people of every income and background make a better life for themselves and their family through heart and determination. I learned how important good jobs were for women going back to work and how unfair the system was for working mothers.

I went back to school to get my master’s degree at the University of North Texas. During graduate school, I worked with inmates trying to re-enter the workforce. I saw how race and economics predetermined who was locked up. I attended law school at Southern Methodist University and then opened a law office where I represented people from every economic class.   During this time, I started working alongside many brave people trying to find ways to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS. Along with most everyone in Dallas and the country, I lost people during the AIDS crisis. I also met a lot of heroes, including activists, healthcare workers, and nurses. Many healthcare workers and nurses were infected with HIV from accidental needle stick injuries all because they wanted to help serve the sick.

I began working with engineers to develop a new technology to prevent needle stick injuries. We started a company together and received a Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the National Institutes of Health to commercialize our technology and help prevent HIV transmission. The lack of transparency in the healthcare market and the corporate stranglehold of Congress prevented our innovative company from realizing its potential. To open up the healthcare market to our innovative safety technology, I organized nurses and unions to pass federal needle stick protection legislation that was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000. Even after passage of the legislation, the corporate stranglehold of Congress prevented our lifesaving technology from getting to the people who needed it most.

Trying to bring new technology to the market showed me how the deck is stacked against investors, entrepreneurs, and working people everywhere. Though our company persevered, I watched countless other small firms get pummeled by political and corporate elite that do not care about people or small businesses.  Our small company in North Texas and countless others across the country are locked out of markets because Congress does not do its job. When I am elected, I will be a voice for small business owners, independent manufacturers, family farms, and working people.

I then went to work expanding our HIV prevention campaign around the world. During this time, President Bush lead the fight for the passage of PEPFAR which authorized billions of dollars to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS globally. I worked alongside the World Health Organization and made frequent trips to countries where many children and families would have died without the work of the U.S. government and faith communities.

This work ingrained in me the importance of how government actions impact everyday people both here in the US and around the globe. When the government does its job, it stops disease and funds innovation. When government fails, it lets the monopolies run wild and the elite call the shots.

In 2008, I joined the Obama campaign and worked to organize women and small business owners for Obama before working on the Obama Presidential Transition team.

I ultimately joined the Obama Administration and served the last five years as the Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development. My role ensured rural communities had access to safe drinking water, affordable housing, and high-speed broadband. I fought tirelessly to assure rural programs were positioned for success and sustainability while ensuring tax dollars were leveraged effectively.

I’m running to take on the system and stand-up for the people — for my children and all Texans who want a better future for the next generation. Please join me.