Texas Politics

Annie’s List Executive Director Grace Garcia dies in I-35 pile-up



Grace Ann Garcia, a well-known Texas Democratic political operative who worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton, was killed in a six-vehicle pileup on IH 35E in Waxahachie Monday (June 2).

Garcia, 59, was traveling to Dallas from Austin for a fundraiser for Democratic nominees Sen. Wendy Davis for governor and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor.

It was hosted by Annie’s List, a group that recruits candidates, raises money and provides campaign coaching for Democratic women. Garcia became its executive director in January of 2013.

“Grace did so much for me and for countless Texas women,” Davis said in a statement. “She was a part of this extraordinary journey we’ve been working on together that wouldn’t have been possible without her. I know she will be with us every step of the way in our hearts and will continue to inspire us every single day.”

Born in Germany while her father, a career Army officer, was stationed there, Garcia was raised in San Antonio. She was a kindergarten classmate of Van de Putte, whose maiden name was San Miguel.

Van de Putte said she and Garcia were close friends. They graduated together in 1973 from Thomas Jefferson High School.

At a Methodist memorial service Sunday (June 8) in San Antonio, Van de Putte recalled in junior high, someone said a girl couldn’t be elected student body president. Garcia said Van de Putte could, and managed her campaign.

Van de Putte became the first girl elected student body president.

Van de Putte called Garcia “a fierce warrior for Texas women and equality. Texas has lost a giant.

“To me, it was an honor to call her my sister, she was like family. I will be forever indebted to Grace. She was always there for me and for my family. She was at the decision table convincing me to run for lieutenant governor.”

Garcia got involved in Texas Democratic politics in 1977, working with Garry Mauro, who was managing the campaign of U.S. Rep. Bob Krueger for the U.S. Senate.

After Krueger’s narrow loss to incumbent Republican Sen. John Tower, Garcia became executive director of the Mexican-American Democrats while attending the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1982, Mauro said he would not have been elected land commissioner but for Garcia helping him win 70 percent of the vote in South Texas. Garcia later worked for Mauro at the land office.

Mauro met Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1972, when they oversaw Texas for the presidential campaign of George McGovern and Sargent Shriver. Years later, he introduced Garcia to the Clintons.

When Bill Clinton announced for president in 1991, Garcia was a chief advance person who arranged details of campaign stops.

After Clinton became president in 1993, Garcia’s various jobs in the White House included deputy director of scheduling, setting up and often going on trips throughout the United States and the world; Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Interior; and outreach and program development coordinator for the President’s Initiative on Race.

When Clinton left the White House in 2001, Garcia became Special Projects Director for GSD&M advertising in Austin — where Roy Spence, another close friend of the Clintons dating from the 1972 Texas presidential campaign, is the S in the firm’s name.

She simultaneously ran her own events firm. Garcia also co-founded the National Latina Political Action Committee and directed the National Latino Finance Council for then- U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2008.

Garcia worked in Hillary’s try for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Hillary lost to Barack Obama, who won the presidency, and then chose Hillary as Secretary of State. Garcia became senior advisor in the Office of the Chief of Protocol in the State Department.

Bill and Hillary Clinton in a joint statement described Garcia as intelligent, fearless and “a beloved member of our family.”

“For well over two decades, every time we went to Texas, Grace was not only our indispensable supporter but our true friend,” it said.

Van de Putte said “it was an honor to call her my sister, she was like family. Our test in life is to leave this place better than when we got here, to be good gente (people) and do right by others. Grace met that test and this country is a better place because she lived.”

Other memorial services are being planned in Austin and Washington D.C.

• • •

Annie’s List Interim Director . . . . Patsy Martin, who was to be the next chair of the Annie’s List board after Amber Mostyn, has agreed to drop off the board to become interim executive director.

The well-respected Martin founded and ran “I Live Here, I Give Here.” It has helped raise millions for Austin charities.

DAVE MCNEELY is a political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@ gmail or (512)458-2963.

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