Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) represents the 21st Senatorial District, which stretches from the Rio Grande to the Colorado River and to the Port of Corpus Christi and the Valley. Re-elected most recently in an eighth landslide victory with 68 percent, she is the first Hispanic woman elected to the Texas Senate, the second highest-ranking senator, and the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic senator.
Her appointments provide countless opportunities to champion the priorities of SD 21, the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale, which has generated billions of dollars in economic activity for our state. As Senate Chair of the Eagle Ford Legislative Caucus, Senator Zaffirini prioritizes the district’s continued prosperity, and as Vice Chair of the Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs Committee, she helps protect and conserve the district’s water resources, such as the Rio Grande and the Edwards Aquifer.
Health care is a major industry in SD 21, and as a member of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, Senator Zaffirini advocates for improved health services, especially for the very young, the very old, and persons with disabilities. As a member of the Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee and of the Energy Council since 2009, she promotes responsible, sustainable development of Texas’ energy resources. Through the State Affairs Committee, she addresses issues affecting local governments, such as bond issuances and eminent domain, and issues related to guardianship, such as protecting persons under guardianship from abuse and preventing corruption in the legal system.
Her legendary work ethic is reflected in her 100 percent voting record, having cast 55,666 consecutive votes as of 2015, and her 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. She has sponsored and passed 895 bills and 52 substantive resolutions. Showing her bipartisan effectiveness, in the 2015 Republican-dominated Texas Legislature she passed 102 bills, breaking her personal record and passing more bills than any other legislator.
Senator Zaffirini has received more than 880 awards and honors for her legislative, public service, and professional work, including more than 260 in communication. Her recent 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 ; receiving the Mary Holdsworth Butt Award from Mental Health America of Texas and the Pinnacle of Achievement Award from the Center for Health Care Services for her legendary leadership for persons with emotional, physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. She received the “People’s Friend: Lord’s Work Award” from the Texas Observer and the Presidential Citation from The University of Texas at Austin, which also named her a Distinguished Alumna in 2003. Texas Monthly has named Senator Zaffirini one of Texas’ “10 Best Legislators” four times and given her the “Bull of the Brazos” award and an “Honorable Mention.” She also received the Godmother of Texas Children Award from Teaching and Mentoring Communities and was named a Legislative Champion by Texas oil and gas leaders. 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. Her son, Carlos Jr., endowed scholarships in her name at The University of Texas at Austin, Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas A&M International University. The Beaumont Foundation also endowed a scholarship honoring her and her husband at A&M International, where the annual Senator Judith Zaffirini Medal is presented to faculty and students who excel in scholarship and leadership.
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 has honored her for her distinguished career in journalism and public service. Press Women of Texas (PWT) and the National Association of Press Women have recognized her communications expertise repeatedly with awards for her publications, speeches, and public relations campaigns. In 2015 PWT named her its Communicator of Achievement.
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 UT-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, International Communication Association, Texas Speech Communication Association and Association for Borderlands Studies. Judith and Carlos Zaffirini have been married for 50 years. Their son, Carlos Jr., an attorney and businessman, is married to Audrey Pieper.