Elected in November 2002 to her seventh term in the
House of Representatives with an overwhelming 77.6
percent of the votes in the 35th District of California,
Congresswoman Maxine Waters represents a large part
of South Central Los Angeles, the Westchester community
and the diverse cities of Gardena, Hawthorne,
Inglewood and Lawndale.
Formerly the Chair of the 39-member Congressional
Black Caucus (1997-98), Rep. Waters has held the
influential leadership position of Chief Deputy Whip of
the Democratic Party since the 106th Congress and was
recently named Co-Chair of the powerful House
Democratic Steering Committee.
She continues to be a member of the House Committee on
Financial Services and the ranking member of its Subcommittee
on Housing and Community Opportunity. She also continues
to serve on the Committee on the Judiciary.
Following the 2000 Presidential election fiasco in Florida and
elsewhere, Rep. Waters was named by Minority Leader
Richard Gephardt to chair the Democratic Caucus
Special Committee on Election Reform which held
hearings throughout the country to prepare
for Congressional consideration of minimum
federal standards for elections practices.
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Throughout her 25 years of public service, Maxine Waters
has been on the cutting edge, tackling difficult and often
controversial issues. She has combined her strong legislative
and public policy acumen and high visibility in
Democratic Party activities with an unusual ability
to do grassroots organizing.
Following the Los Angeles civil unrest in 1992, Congresswoman
Waters faced the nation’s media and public to interpret the
hopelessness and despair in cities across America.
Over the years, she has brought many government
officials and policy makers to her South Central L.A.
district to appeal for more resources. They included
President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Secretaries
of Housing & Urban Development Henry Cisneros
and Andrew Cuomo, and Alan Greenspan,
chairman of the Federal Reserve System.
Maxine Waters also brought national spotlight to the allegations
of CIA involvement in the Contra cocaine drug trafficking in
South Central Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. She has called for
redirecting the resources of the so-called “war on drugs” to
prevention and treatment, and for repealing mandatory
minimum sentencing laws for minor drug offenses.
Prior to her election to the House of Representatives in 1990,
Congresswoman Waters had already attracted national attention
for her no-nonsense, no-holds-barred style of politics. During
14 years in the California State Assembly, she rose to the powerful
position of Democratic Caucus Chair. She was responsible for some
of the boldest legislation California has ever seen: the largest divestment
of state pension funds from South Africa; landmark affirmative action
legislation; the nation’s first statewide Child Abuse Prevention
Training Program; the prohibition of police strip searches for
nonviolent misdemeanors; and the introduction
of the nation’s first plant closure law.
As a national Democratic Party leader, Congresswoman Waters
has long been highly visible in Democratic Party politics and has served
on the Democratic National Committee since 1980. She was a key
leader in five presidential campaigns: Sen. Edward Kennedy (1980),
Rev. Jesse Jackson (1984 & 1988), and President Bill Clinton
(1992 & 1996). In 2001, she was instrumental in the DNC’s
creation of the National Development and Voting Rights Institute
and the appointment of Mayor Maynard Jackson as its chair.
She has used her skill to shape public policy and deliver the goods:
$10 billion in Section 108 loan guarantees to cities for economic
and infrastructure development, housing and small business
expansion; $50 million appropriation for “Youth Fair Chance”
program which established an intensive job and life skills training
program for unskilled, unemployed youth; expanded U.S.
debt relief for Africa and other developing nations;
creating a “Center for Women Veterans,” among others.
She is a co-founder of Black Women’s Forum, a nonprofit
organization of over 1,200 African American women in the
Los Angeles area. In the mid-80s, she also founded Project Build,
working with young people in Los Angeles housing developments
on job training and placement. Following the 1992 civil unrest,
she founded Community Build, the city’s
grassroots rebuilding project.
As an advocate for human rights, Congresswoman Waters
was a leader in the movement to end Apartheid and assure
one-person, one-vote democracy in South Africa. She founded
the Los Angeles Free South Africa Movement and continues to be
an advisor to Trans Africa. In 1994, she was on the official U.S.
delegation to Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as
President of a free South Africa.
Rep. Waters was a key figure in Congressional efforts to restore
to power Haiti’s democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. She also was arrested in front of the White House urging
justice for Haitian refugees and the restoration of democracy in Haiti.
Maxine Waters was a strong advocate of family reunification
and the return of little Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba.
As she confronts the Republican-controlled Congress on issues
such as poverty, economic development, equal justice under the law
and other issues of concern to people of color, women, children,
and poor people, Rep. Waters enjoys a broad cross section of
support from diverse communities across the nation.
She is lauded by African American entrepreneurs for her work to
expand contracting and procurement opportunities and to strengthen
businesses. Long active in the women’s movement, Rep. Waters has
given encouragement and financial support to women seeking public
office. Many young people, including those in the hip-hop music
community, praise her for her support and understanding of young
people and their efforts at self-expression. One testament to her
work is the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center,
a multimillion dollar campus providing education and
employment opportunities to residents of the Watts area.
Rep. Waters is a key figure in a broad coalition of
community residents, environmental activists, elected
officials and cities opposing expansion of the
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Maxine Waters was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fifth of
13 children reared by a single mother. She began working at age
13 in factories and segregated restaurants. After moving to
Los Angeles, she worked in garment factories and at the
telephone company. She attended California State University
at Los Angeles, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.
She began her career in public service as a teacher
and a volunteer coordinator in the Head Start program.
She is married to Sidney Williams, the former U.S.
Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
She is the mother of two adult children, Edward
and Karen, and has two grandchildren.