She’s much more than an actor.
Over the past five years of the Obama presidency, the 38-year-old Corpus Christi native who rocketed to fame in Hollywood has slowly but surely made her mark in Washington as a serious student of issues, a formidable fundraiser for Democratic causes and a spokeswoman for the emerging, increasingly empowered young generation of Latinos.
Longoria has become such an ascendant star in Democratic circles that the party’s national finance chairman, Henry Muñoz of San Antonio, says donors are sometimes disappointed when he shows up alone.
“I get that everywhere I go these days: Why isn’t Eva Longoria here?” jokes Muñoz, CEO of the architecture firm Muñoz & Co.
The answer is simple: There’s only so much politicking the actress can do while pursuing her day job in Hollywood and running her charitable foundations.
In addition to Eva’s Heroes, a charity that aids developmentally disabled children, she launched the Eva Longoria Foundation last year to promote college access and support business startups among young Latinas. The foundation’s first big move, announced in April, involves doling out $2 million in microloans to Latina business owners in Texas and California, stemming from a partnership with Warren Buffett’s son, Howard. Her efforts landed Longoria a seat alongside former President Bill Clinton to talk economic empowerment at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting Thursday in Chicago.
In Washington, she has appeared on Capitol Hill at hearings and news conferences, shining a spotlight on child-labor abuses in agriculture, the struggles of the learning impaired, the need for better schools to boost young Latinos out of poverty, the dearth of Small Business Administration programs for Latino entrepreneurs, and, of course, immigration reform.
Beyond the world of legislation, she’s put her clout behind efforts in the nation’s capital to create an American Latino museum on the National Mall, a Latino heritage fund for the National Parks and management training for Latino arts groups.
In her spare time, she received a master’s degree in American Hispanic history from California State University, Northridge, last month with a focus on math and science coursework for Latina students. She earned her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
She’s compiled quite an impressive resume, and is attracting plenty of notice for her political activities as well. Longoria was co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign and his inauguration. Those aren’t things you get to do just by being a pretty face. This being Texas, and Longoria being a star Democrat in a state that could use all the Democratic star power it can get, speculation is inevitable.
Some wistful Democrats see Longoria as a 21st century Ronald Reagan – a dynamic communicator with the potential to alter the partisan landscape in Texas and appeal across economic and social lines nationwide.
“It would appear that for many Texas Democrats, Longoria has now replaced Tommy Lee Jones as their fantasy celebrity candidate for public office,” said Mark P. Jones, chairman of the political science department at Rice University.
Jones warned, however, that fantasies about Longoria the politician may never be fulfilled.
“While many celebrities are effective at advancing specific causes, a much smaller number have been able to move to the next level and become effective actors within the political system,” he said.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard anyone mention Longoria as a potential candidate for anything, wistfully or otherwise. As I recall, the ultimately short-lived Ashley Judd for Senate boomlet got started when Judd was shown to be a potentially competitive candidate in a race against Sen. Mitch McConnell. The lesson I would draw from that, if I were interested in initiating a similar phenomenon here, would be to convince a respectable pollster to do some hypothetical matchups for Sen. John Cornyn, with Eva Longoria of course being one of the hypothetical opponents, and see what happens. You never know, right?
On a side note, this article was written before the Wendy Davis filibuster and its fallout. Out of curiosity, I checked to see if Longoria commented on that on either her Twitter or Facebook accounts; as far as I can tell, the answer is No. No one is required to say anything about anything, it was just one of those things that occur to me now and again, so make of that what you will.