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.
Senator Zaffirini is Senate Chair of the Eagle Ford Legislative Caucus and Vice Chair of the Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs Committee and a member of the Health & Human Services, Natural Resources & Economic Development, and State Affairs committees. These appointments provide countless unique opportunities to champion the priorities of SD 21, the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale. As Chair of the Eagle Ford Legislative Caucus, she prioritizes the district’s continued prosperity. 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 Committee and of the Energy Council since 2009, she promotes responsible, sustainable development of Texas’ energy resources, including the Eagle Ford Shale, which has generated billions of dollars in economic activity for our state. Through the State Affairs Committee, she addresses issues affecting local governments, such as bond issuances and eminent domain.
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 and co-sponsored and passed another 468 bills.
Senator Zaffirini has received more than 760 awards and honors for her legislative, public service, and professional work, including more than 220 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. 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.” 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 a scholarship in her name at The University of Texas at Austin and another at the Baylor College of Medicine. The Beaumont Foundation also endowed a scholarship honoring her and her husband at Texas A&M International University, where the annual Senator Judith Zaffirini Medal is presented to faculty and students for accomplishments 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 and the National Association of Press Women have recognized her communications expertise repeatedly with awards for her publications, speeches, and public relations campaigns.
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, Texas Public Relations Association, International Communication Association, 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.