Spotlight Series: Farah Melendez
Our Latinx Spotlight Series was such a hit, we have expanded our spotlight series! The spotlight today is on Farah Melendez, Senior Advisor at the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA).
Can you give us a brief background and introduction about yourself?
FM: I was born and raised in Utah. I’m a first generation Latina. My mom is from Chile, and my dad is from Honduras. I didn’t know I wanted to come into politics, but I feel like being a first generation immigrant that I had to. It was part of something that I really had to do, because it shaped my parents’ life for coming to the United States, and I felt like it was something that I needed to to be part of. My background is in advocacy and grassroots, and then I decided to join campaigning, and I love the campaign world.
The other thing that I have tried and love to do is going into the entertainment side of things. I’ve been a dancer for twenty years, and so I even did folklorico. I have made sure that my culture has been part of my entire life, even through adulthood. And it’s really shaped everything that I kind of do.
Was there a specific, defining moment that made you want to get involved in politics, or was it your upbringing and experiences that influenced you?
FM: I initially wanted to be an ambassador. I learned so much about Latin America, and how life was outside of the United States because of my parents and how they kind of gave me that perspective. But I decided I really wanted to start learning how you know people were elected, and how they came into such great power in the United States. And so I started joining pro immigration rallies in Utah, and I started volunteering on campaigns, and that’s when I really just started loving it.
I think it kind of was a lot of things that came to it, but definitely being first generation. My mom was an activist when Pinochet was in power, and that’s why she left the country. And so I think that has also been kind of the seed that has helped me kind of just really want to be involved and do something that she frankly has wanted to do her whole life, which is be as involved in politics as I am.
What does your day-to-day work look like? What’s your work-life balance like?
FM: It’s hard to say that there’s a balance between the two because of the election. It’s a big year for the Attorney Generals. This will be my sixth year with the AG Association, and this time as a senior advisor. And this time I can actually apply a lot of what we saw in 2018 and advise the entire team. I’m helping advise all the campaigns that are up for reelection and election. We have an interesting year with some interesting flips, and it’s a really tough year, I think, for Democrats across the board.
With work and life, I try and go do as much as I can squeeze in on the weekend. I like to go out in Virginia and go hiking as much as possible with my dogs and my husband. But in the meantime, a lot of it is focused on the midterms and getting these people across the finish line.
How would you say your races are going so far? How do you feel about the midterms?
FM: I think we might have a really good day. I think we have really strong incumbents everywhere. We also have really strong candidates, so we probably will be surprised with the flip. We might not flip all of them, but I think we will at least flip a couple, and I’m really excited to see who that’s gonna be.
We also have five new incoming AGs, because we have some who are running for Governor right now, and some who have retired, or have been term limited. And so, we have some really strong blue seeds where we have incoming AGs, which is exciting to see.
How does your work specifically impact the political climate we live in?
FM: I’m biased, but I think the AGs have some of the biggest power on the ticket. You can pick any topic when it comes to elections, like what we saw in 2020, to making sure you know that you’re not being scammed from companies in-state, so I think Attorneys General have a large power at the constitutional level and on the ballot statewide.
I really believe in them, but I think they often get overlooked when they are. If you look at who has become Governor, who has become Senator, who has become the Vice President and President of the United States. Those are, and can be, and very much have been, Attorneys General. They are a powerhouse of elected officials who have prosecutorial experience, who know how to litigate very well on behalf of not only their State, but work with multiple states across the country to know how to speak to the American people and to voter
What has been the best part or best memory of your career thus far?
FM: Getting the opportunity to travel to each state and learn something different. Since my background has been in grassroots and advocacy, I really like working with volunteers. I really like being on the ground, learning about people and learning what they care about and learning how specific it is to each state. I’ve had a really fun time through my career, being able to not only live across the country in multiple states, but getting to know people everywhere.
What had you wished you had known about getting involved in politics?
FM: That I wasn’t too old to get in. So many people who come to DC and intern here and have these opportunities. I’m from Utah, we don’t have a lot of opportunities, if you’re not a Republican to be involved in politics. I was bullied. I was even harassed at times from folks trying to get me out of it, or didn’t think I was capable enough, and so it took me a long time to be confident enough to try it again.
I felt like I was so behind because I would see people who were far younger than me doing internships, and already being here. That’s why I love internships and seeing people succeed here or anywhere here, because I wish I could have done that. I wish I wasn’t scared. So I think, knowing that everything would be okay, and taking the path that I did, which shape me into the career that I did not expect I would necessarily be in, or be good at.
What advice do you have for young professionals, or Latinxs, looking to get involved in politics?
FM: Don’t be afraid to be the first to be the first in your family, to be the first in your neighborhood, to be the first in your city, because that is me, that is who I am. I’ve never had a mentor, and so I had to look at pieces. I get asked all the time who somebody you look up to, and for me, I look at pieces of people, of stories of success that I look up towards rather than just a single person, because I never had somebody showing me how to go a certain direction.
Lastly, for fun, if you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
FM: I would be a dancer and working in New York on Broadway.
AT: Would it be in musical theater?
FM: It’d definitely be musical theater. Since I danced for twenty years, I just love it. I was a dance teacher, I was a coach, I also was a judge for dance competitions. I have done a range of it, so my whole other life is dancing. I only stopped dancing a few years ago.
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