The Covid-19 pandemic underscored the systemic issues in health care and economic well-being faced by Black and brown communities.
Speaking to the County Commission on Tuesday, Fabian Doñate said his background in public health along with his understanding of the community will aid the Legislature, which began its session Monday, in addressing disparities.
“Given the magnitude of the Covid-19 pandemic, Senate District 10 is experiencing disproportionate inequities due to limited access to care and racial and ethnic disparities that have been predicated by long-standing systemic barriers,” he told commissioners. “This vacancy was my call to action and I’m eager to fight for working-class families and marginalized communities left behind.”
Doñate was unanimously appointed to the vacant seat in Senate District 10. County Commissioners also approved Tracy Brown-May, the director of advocacy and government relations for Opportunity Village, to Assembly District 42
“We are all too aware of the hardships our families are facing and I’m humbled to be trusted to help lead our families towards a healthy and economic recovery,” Brown-May said in a statement. “I do not take this charge lightly and I am ready to put my years of experience advocating for people with disabilities to work immediately. I know we have a long way to go as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19, and I am ready to get to work right away.”
The seats opened following the resignations of state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, who announced in early January she was stepping down to take a job in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the Biden administration, and Assemblyman Alexander Assefa, who left amid investigations of campaign finance abuses and questions around his residency.
Both offices will be on the ballot 2022.
Candidates were recommended by the Assembly and Senate Democratic Caucuses.
“Senate Democrats are thrilled to welcome Fabian Doñate to the Nevada State Senate. Fabian’s experience in public health will help guide us in making sound public policy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said in a statement. “Fabian has deep ties to his community. As the son of immigrants and Culinary Union members, he understands the challenges working families face and the need to expand access to quality, affordable, health care.”
Doñate’s appointment was supported by the Culinary as well as other organizations, including the immigrant and workers’ rights group Make the Road Action.
Along with his degrees in public health, Doñate said his immigrant roots and union ties — his father was a Culinary Union member while his mother was a United Food and Commercial Workers member — gives him a better understanding of the needs of the district.
“My interest in public health stems from a background as a young Latino navigating the systemic barriers in our health care system,” he said. “Growing up in an immigrant household comes with two responsibilities. You live your life in two worlds — one as a regular American kid and the other as a translator for your parents. For me, I found myself having to translate my father’s type 2 Diabetes diagnosis and try to educate my family on better behaviors. Public health for me is my passion and it’s how I choose to serve my community.”
While commissioners said they agreed applicants being endorsed by Democratic caucuses were good choices, they urged lawmakers to change the process for filling vacancies.
“I will say, and I know we’ve brought this up before, that whole process needs to be reformed,” said Commissioner Justin Jones.