Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) represents the 21st Senatorial District. The second highest-ranking Texas state senator, she also is the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic senator and the highest-ranking senator for Bexar County and the border region. In 2008 she was re-elected in a seventh landslide victory with 79 percent in the primary and 68 percent in the general election. She has carried all 17 counties in the large and diverse district in every re-election, something no one else ever has accomplished.
Senator Zaffirini is Chair of the Government Organization Committee and served as Chair of Higher Education (2006-2012) and as Chair of Human Services (1993-2000). She also is Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency and a member of the Legislative Budget Board and of the Senate Finance, Higher Education, Health and Human Services, Economic Development, and Administration committees. The first Hispanic woman to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate and as Governor for a Day, she has served three terms as Chair of Higher Education, three terms as Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, seven terms on the Appropriations Conference Committee, 10 terms on the Senate Finance Committee, and 10 terms on the Senate Education Committee.
Senator Zaffirini’s legendary work ethic is reflected in her 100 percent perfect attendance in the Texas Senate since 1987, except for breaking quorum deliberately to prevent an untimely re-redistricting that the U.S. Supreme Court (2006) ruled violated the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchised voters in SD 21. Continuing her career-long 100 percent voting record, Senator Zaffirini has cast 47,584 consecutive votes. She has sponsored and passed 725 bills and 52 substantive resolutions and co-sponsored and passed another 384 bills. Her legislative priorities include improving public education, higher education, and health and human services. A member of the Energy Council since 2009, she is particularly active in addressing opportunities and challenges presented by the Eagle Ford Shale.
Senator Zaffirini has received more than 670 awards and honors for her legislative, public service, and professional work, including more than 160 in communication. Her 2011 awards include being named to the “All Decades Teams” for the 2000s and the 1990s by Capitol Inside and a Hero of Hope by the Laredo Morning Times. She received the “People’s Friend: Lord’s Work Award” from the Texas Observer and the inaugural “Subiendo Leadership Award” from The University of Texas at Austin, which also named her a Distinguished Alumna in 2003. 2011 marks the fourth time that Texas Monthly has named Senator Zaffirini to its list of Texas’ “10 Best Legislators.” It also included her in 2005, 2001 and 1997; gave her the “Bull of the Brazos” award in 2009 and an “Honorable Mention” in 2003. Interestingly, she was named Sister Judith an Honorary Nun, by the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Ministries and Mr. South Texas by the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association. She is the namesake of Laredo Community College’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Library and Texas A&M International University’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Student Success Center, as well as of the Senator Judith Zaffirini Road and Senator Judith Zaffirini Elementary School in Laredo and the AAMA Judith Zaffirini Residential Center in Edinburg.
Additionally, in 2012 Senator Zaffirini received 21 awards from the Press Women of Texas Association and four awards from the National Federation of Press Women, organizations who have recognized her communications expertise repeatedly with awards for her publications, speeches, and public relations campaigns.
Dr. Zaffirini is an award-winning communication specialist with 13 years of teaching experience, including at the college and university levels. The South Texas Press Association honored her for her distinguished career in journalism and public service. Through her business, Zaffirini Communications, she provides professional communication services, including consulting, workshops and seminars, one-on-one coaching, keynote addresses, and writing. A distinguished communicator, educator, and leader, she holds B.S., M.A., and PhD degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, each with a 3.9 grade-point average.
A lector at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and member of the Texas Philosophical Society and of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, her professional memberships include the Texas Press Women, Texas Public Relations Association, International Communication Association, Speech Communication Association, and Association for Borderlands Studies. Judith and Carlos Zaffirini have been married for 47 years. Their son, Carlos Jr., is an attorney and businessman.