City Council candidate Jessica Tavara said yesterday she was excited when she heard that President Barack Obama had nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
Like Sotomayor, Tavara is a Latina who has had to overcome obstacles to get to where she is today.
"It's not just the fact that she's a Latina," said Tavara, who herself became a nominee last week when Democratic voters put her on the ballot for one of two available seats on City Council. "She's a very prestigious individual who has a lot of experience and lots of struggles and had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get to where she's at right now."
Sotomayor, who grew up in a Bronx housing project, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that forced her to start insulin injections at age 8. Her father died the next year, and she was raised by her mother, a nurse who worked long hours.
She graduated from Princeton, then Yale's law school, then joined the Manhattan district attorney's office. She was nominated to the federal bench in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush.
Tavara, meanwhile, grew up in Peru and moved to Elizabeth, N.J., in 1988, where she graduated from St. Patrick's High School. She moved to Lebanon in 1994.
A single mother to three children, Tavara works at Mid Penn Legal Services in Lebanon as an ombudsman for residents of senior homes. She is treasurer for the Lebanon Hispanic Center, where she teaches citizenship classes; Secretary of the Lebanon County Council
of Human Services; a member of the board of Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center of Lebanon County; and was appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell to serve on the Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs as liaison to Lebanon County's Hispanic residents.
"When I found out about her, I was so inspired by her I put her on my Facebook," Tavara said. "When I found out about this great woman and all her accomplishments, I wanted everyone to know about her."
Lebanon County Democratic Committee Chairman Chris Tarsa had similar words of praise for the nominee.
"I think it's really neat that you have someone like Obama and his pick — it's people coming from humble beginnings achieving the highest level in their chosen profession," he said.
Lebanon County Republican Committee Chairwoman Faith Bender said that, while she thought it was positive that Sotomayor is the first Hispanic nominated for the high court, she hopes people don't get caught up in the euphoria.
"She is subject to the same vetting process by the Senate that any judicial nominee would be put through," Bender said.
Bender said she had heard of Sotomayor before Tuesday's announcement but admitted that she didn't know a whole lot about her.
"She does have a reputation for being a rather liberal judge," Bender said. "Over the next few weeks, I'm sure the American people and the Senate will find out a lot about her."