Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) represents the 21st Senatorial District. The first Hispanic woman elected to the Texas Senate, she is the second highest-ranking senator and the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic senator. In 2012 she was re-elected in an eighth landslide victory with 68 percent in a district that stretches from the Rio Grande to the Colorado River and to the Port of Corpus Christi and the Valley.
Senator Zaffirini is Chair of the Government Organization Committee and served as Chair of Higher Education (2006-2012) and as Chair of Health and 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 Senate Finance, Higher Education, Health and Human Services, Natural Resources and Administration committees. The first Hispanic woman to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate and as Governor for a Day, she also served on the Legislative Budget Board (2004-2014) and 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 voting record, having cast 51,693 consecutive votes as of 2013, 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 795 bills and 52 substantive resolutions and co-sponsored and passed another 400 bills. A member of the Energy Council since 2009, she organized the Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus in 2012 and is particularly active in addressing related opportunities and challenges.
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. 2011 marked the fourth time that Texas Monthly named Senator Zaffirini one of Texas’ “10 Best Legislators.” It also included her in 2005, 2001 and 1997; and 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. Her son, Carlos Jr., endowed a scholarship in her name at The University of Texas at Austin, as did the Beaumont Foundation at Texas A&M International University. Additionally, in 2013 Senator Zaffirini received 17 awards from Press Women of Texas and three from the National Federation of Press Women. Both organizations 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 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 49 years. Their son, Carlos Jr., an attorney and businessman, is married to Audrey.