Raúl has a thirty-year record of exceptional public service in Southern Arizona. Raúl, his wife Ramona, and their three daughters, Adelita, Raquel and Marisa, have a lifelong commitment to improving the quality of life in the Southern Arizona community.
Raúl began his public career as a community organizer and continues to be an advocate for underrepresented constituencies in Tucson and Southern Arizona. In the 1970s he joined with other advocates at El Rio Community Health Center, (a once small local community health services clinic that Raúl and several others established in Tucson), to encourage local governments to invest in older and minority neighborhoods. He helped organize neighborhood empowerment efforts that prompted the City of Tucson to expand services to the south and west sides, including the construction of neighborhood service centers such as El Rio, El Pueblo and Fred Archer. He directed the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center from 1975 to 1986.
From 1974 to 1986, Raúl served on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, including as chairman for the last six years of his tenure. The community looked to Raúl as an advocate for teacher and employee rights, civil rights, and increased funding and support for public education. He was instrumental in the establishment and implementation of bilingual education in Arizona, as well as the creation of the magnet school programs in Tucson during desegregation. Raúl M. Grijalva Elementary School was named in his honor after he retired in order to recognize his service and contributions to education in the Tucson Unified School District.
Raúl continued his service to the community when he was elected to the Pima County Board of Supervisors, where he served from 1988 to 2003, including two years as the Board’s Chairman. At the Board of Supervisors, he was a staunch advocate for balanced planning and fairness in land use decisions. His leadership led to the creation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. He continued his advocacy for working families, reinvesting in older and minority neighborhoods by passing the first bond package that contained a $10 million commitment to reinvesting in older, poorer neighborhoods and the funding of a housing trust fund. He worked with community advocates to pass Countywide Universal Inclusive Home Designs Standards. These standards, the first in the nation, were applied to all new housing, providing simple, minimal cost design changes that make homes more accessible for people with disabilities and the general public as we age.
In 2002, Raúl resigned from the Pima County Board of Supervisors to seek office in the newly created Seventh Congressional District. Volunteer efforts helped Raúl successfully overcome a nine-candidate primary against several former or then-current elected officials. Even as he was outspent three to one by his closest competitor, Raúl obtained a 20 point victory. Raúl won with a diverse coalition of supporters that led the largest volunteer-driven election effort in Arizona. Raúl’s campaign, “A Whole Lot of People for Grijalva,” was driven by volunteers who knocked on doors, made phone calls, handled mailings, and made great friends that expanded the Grijalva political family. That election united hundreds of wonderfully dedicated activists of all ages, races and interests.
The 2002 election proved that volunteers and grassroots campaigning can win against money, connections and powerful interests. Since his initial election, Raúl has continued to aggressively campaign for reelection with the help of a whole lot of dedicated volunteers, whose numbers have continued to grow. These supporters stand together for Raúl because he has remained a steadfast leader who is unafraid to take tough votes. Raúl believes in educating the public rather than exploiting fears and insecurities.
Since his election to Congress in 2002, Raúl remains committed to bring fairness and accountability to our federal government in providing services and protecting the health and safety of the public. Education, job creation, employee rights and the environment are some of his top policy concerns.
As a member of the Committee on Education and The Workforce, Raúl helped to fund early childhood and preschool programs within our nation’s consistently underfunded education system. He successfully worked to improve funding to Migrant and Seasonal Head Start and to enhance outreach and services to Limited English Proficient children and their families. Raúl continues to improve the quality of life for working families by promoting minimum wage increases, supporting legislation to prevent intimidation, and pushing to help employees organize and represent themselves in the workplace.
As a member of the Committee on Natural Resources, where he serves as Ranking Member of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, Raúl played the leading role in creating a permanent National Landscape Conservation System within the Department of the Interior and fought successfully to address the maintenance funding shortfall of American public lands. Recently, Raúl played a leading role in pushing the Obama Administration to protect 1 million acres of land in the Grand Canyon from the threat of expanded uranium mining. Long before the disastrous BP oil spill, Raúl pushed for effective oversight of the oil and gas drilling industries, and he continues to lead that charge.
As Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), Raúl champions affordable health care for every American, and fights for job creation measures that focus on improving America’s infrastructure and economic base. As a long-standing member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — where he chairs the Education Task Force — Raúl continues to work for comprehensive immigration reform, standing up to those who want to exploit fear, insecurities and hatred to distract voters from the need to resolve common sense policy objectives. He has pushed for adequate funding for English language learners and fair access to quality education for minority communities.