Meet Tom Wakely

Tom was born in San Antonio, raised in a Catholic family, he is the oldest of six kids. 2wedding_photo0001.jpg

He is married to Norma Leticia (Lety) Gomez Rodriguez, a native of Juarez, Mexico whom Tom meet in Guadalajara in 2003 on a blind date. Six months later they were married. Tom has one daughter Kelly from a previous marriage and two grandchildren.

Tom graduated from Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio in 1970, during the height of the Vietnam War. During his senior year, he enlisted in the US Air Force - he was only 17 yrs. old. After his honorable discharge from the military he returned to San Antonio and immediately joined César Chavez’s Texas Farm Workers Union campaign. Tom's pay was room and board, $5.00 a week, and all of the menudo he could eat. He worked for Chávez for a little over 2 years, helping organize the Grape Boycott in San Antonio. He was arrested several times and jailed for picketing outside HEB stores. In 1972 Tom and several other farm worker staff members attempting to organize warehouse workers at the San Antonio Produce Terminal were chased from the facility by gunfire.

During the time Tom worked for the Farm Workers, he also published a bi-weekly underground newspaper, the San Antonio Gazette, a political rag. It was an explosive and dangerous time in the United States, in Texas and in San Antonio. Tom’s offices were broken into numerous times by the San Antonio Police’s ‘Red Squad’ and he was constantly harassed and threatened. By the mid-1970's he had become a target of CLEAT - the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas. On the advice of counsel, Tom closed the paper and moved to Denver, Colorado where he found work organizing hospital workers for the SEIU - Service Employees International Union. Two years after that Tom found himself in Milwaukee, Wisconsin working as a Business Agent for an independent union that represented Wisconsin Gas and Wisconsin Power employees.

The common thread in Tom's work within the union movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement was the faith community. He could always count on a priest, a minister, an imam or a rabbi, to walk the picket line with him or march for peace and justice with him. In 1985, Tom answered a different calling and entered the Chicago Theological Seminary; an ecumenical institution affiliated with the United Church of Christ. While at seminary he organized the 1988 Congress on Religion & Politics.

After leaving seminary, he moved to southern Wisconsin, settling in Lake Geneva. One of his first jobs was working as the Executive Director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Communities Organized for Public Service; a faith-based ecumenical organization dedicated to supporting family farmers and the rural communities in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties. During his time with this organization he organized and founded the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lakes in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where he served as the congregation’s founding minister. Tom's first run for office was for the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin school board. He won, defeating a twenty year incumbent.

In 1994, Tom returned to Texas, settling in Manor, a rural community east of Austin. For the next ten years he worked as the Parish Social Minister at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Manor. He supervised the building of affordable housing and the rehabilitation of owner occupied homes through a faith-based non-profit affiliated with St. Joseph’s. In addition, Tom coordinated the repair and rehabilitation of over 100 homes in East Austin through the Austin Metropolitan Ministries Hands on Housing program. The Austin NAACP recognized Tom's work with community service award. In 2004 Tom, with the help of Lety, took on a new challenge to help the low-income community of East Austin. They were tasked by Father Bob, the pastor at St Joseph’s, to organize a community development bank to serve the residents of East Austin.                                                                                        

VivaVino11.jpgIn 2007, burned out after years of fighting for economic justice, of butting their heads against the wall, Tom & Lety decided to do something completely different. They sold their home in Austin and moved to the Pacific Coast of Mexico, to Manzanillo. There they opened Viva Vino, a wine bar/jazz club and would probably still be there if Tom’s mother hadn’t fallen sick. In 2010, they both moved back to Texas, to San Antonio to take care of Mrs. Wakely who had been placed into hospice care. After she died, Christus Santa Rosa asked them if they would be interested in taking care of other hospice patients. Eight years later, Tom & Lety are still providing palliative care to hospice patients in their home.

In 2016, Tom was elected to be the Democratic nominee to challenge Rep. Lamar Smith, a 30 year Republican incumbent in the Texas 21st Congressional District. Though Tom lost that election, he managed to drop Smith’s percentage of the vote to its lowest ever, 56.9%. Tom’s campaign also garnered more votes than any Democrat in the state of Texas running against an incumbent republican member of congress. He did this by running on bold progressive ideas and values.

Looking to add to the growing progressive wave spreading across the state, Tom is dedicated to championing the rights, freedoms and prosperity of the working men and women of Texas. This is what Tom has to say about his run for Texas Governor:

" We cannot let things continue on as they are. Our world, our country, our state, is facing the end of times - not in the biblical or religious sense, but in the sense that the world as we know it, the world we grew up in, will not be the world we leave to our children or grandchildren. Climate change and corporate control over pretty much everything in Texas is the new reality.

I want the Texas Democratic party to move away from centrist politics and move towards a party of the 99%. My campaign for Governor is about advocating for a progressive change in Texas politics by removing Abbott, Patrick, Paxton and their tea party brethren in the state legislature from power.

But if we act together, and if we act now, we can stop climate change and rein in the corporations. We can ensure that our children and our grandchildren will inherit not just a safer world but a better world. And I believe we can all work together in common cause to address the issues that concern us all: Income Inequality, Universal Healthcare, Gun Control, and Global Warming.

There is much work to be done, and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and tackling these tasks. I look forward to representing you as Governor of Texas."