She came to the U.S. at 16 with her mother from Venezuela for better economic opportunities and now Natali Fani-Gonzalez wants to create an atmosphere of opportunity for everyone.
Fani-Gonzalez, 33 of Kensington, filed as a Democratic candidate for the District 18 Maryland House of Delegates Feb. 4. She said she can represent all the people of the diverse district which includes Kensington, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park, Wheaton and parts of Silver Spring and Rockville.
“I have diversity within me,” she said. “I am where I am because I worked hard for it and I want to represent working families, especially working women.”
When Fani-Gonzalez came to the U.S. she did not speak English, but, she said, she studied hard, graduated from Northwestern High School in Prince George’s County and was accepted to Goucher College in Towson. Now a business owner, she is founder and director of the Matea Group, a communications and public policy advocacy firm.
Fani-Gonzalez said she is a business candidate and will work to see that businesses are vibrant and more jobs are created.
Before founding the Matea Group, Fani-Gonzalez worked as a lobbyist for CASA of Maryland, an organization that works for the rights of Latinos and other immigrants. She then became part of the communications team for the Service Employee International Union Local 32BJ, representing property service workers, such as office cleaners and maintenance workers, bus drivers and aides, and food service workers.
“I’m not a one issue person, and I have the background to reflect that,” she said.
Her record, she said includes working with labor issues, businesses, women’s issues and health care.
She feels that this is her time to run for office.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” she said. “I was a lobbyist in Annapolis so I know Annapolis and I have friends [there].”
So far, Fani-Gonzalez said she has raised $30,000 and hopes to make that $40,000 by the end of the month.
“I make calls and ask people to donate,” she said. “And I have friends asking [their] friends to give me money.”
She said she expects friends and former colleagues to be her main source of income but also said expects people who share her ideals will support her too.
There are three seats in the House of Delegates from District 18 and all the incumbents: Alfred Carr Jr., Ana Sol Gutierrez and Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher - are running. In addition to Fani-Gonzalez, Rick Kessler, Elizabeth Matory and Emily Shetty have registered as candidates for those seats. The primary election will be held June 24 and the general election, Nov. 4.