TAMPA, Fla. — Most people in the United States probably identify the singer Cher as the most popular woman with that first name. But soon, that could all change.
Tonight, Republicans believe one of their star candidates, Sher Valenzuela, will burst into the national spotlight when she delivers a primetime address during the Republican National Convention.
Valenzuela, who is running for lieutenant governor of Delaware, is a small businesswoman who runs an industrial upholstery facility that manufactures everything from padding for Major League Baseball umpires to bulletproof vests for the Israeli military and protective covering for the U.S. military’s Boeing V-22 Osprey.
Tonight, she has one of the best speaking slots. She is slated to address the convention for eight minutes beginning at 7:50 p.m. ET on the moral defense of free enterprise.
But her newfound glory hasn’t excited everyone. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragosa told reporters today in Tampa, Fla., “You can’t just tout out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect the people are going to vote for your party or your candidate.”
Those comments were perceived as a direct assault on Valenzuela, whose husband, Eli, is Latino. Valenzuela is white.
Still, the mayor’s comments didn’t appear to faze Valenzuela.
“They’ve got a lot of things going on in their own state, in their own backyard,” she told ABC News Tuesday afternoon. “We have enough to worry about with what’s happening in our nation to worry about what’s happening in California. Keep your feet grounded in your own backyard and together we’re going to build communities that work.”
Valenzuela, who has never before sought political office, drew a parallel between her candidacy and the leadership qualities of Mitt Romney.
“We’re looking at somebody that has a solid understanding of what it means to balance a budget and who has a track record of supporting small businesses,” she said. “I relate to what Gov. Romney brings. I know what it means to balance a budget. I know what it means to write a paycheck and not only cash one. I know what it means to create a job, and I know what it means to struggle with my business every day in terms of keeping our doors open any day but definitely in a difficult economy.”
The convention’s theme tonight, “We Built It,” has also attracted some criticism toward Valenzuela, whose business employs about 70 people, because it accepted federal loans and contracts. Valenzuela said that when she launched her business from her garage, she applied for a Small Business Administration-backed loan.
“I had to put my house on the line for that loan and, thankfully, I didn’t lose my house and, thankfully, I was able to create the jobs that I committed to provide,” she said. “It’s businesses versus big government. We don’t need big government. We need a more efficient, lean government, and that’s exactly the kind of government we intend to deliver.”
“It doesn’t matter if you have a D, or an I or an R after your name if you have a job – a J-O-B,” she added. “It really matters to people that they have an opportunity to contribute to their economy in a very meaningful way, and this is outside party lines. So we believe that these are the solutions that America is craving.”
So does she have any nerves heading into what is likely the biggest moment of her life?
“Of course,” she laughed. “I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t say that was humbled by this, but I just expect to be myself – and everybody that’s here, I’m sure, will relate to that.”