close
close

Mexico Presidential Election: Claudia Sheinbaum vs. Gálvez, Álvarez Máynez

MEXICO CITY – Mexicans go to the polls on Sunday for historic elections: for the first time they are expected to elect a female president. But that’s just one sign of the remarkable diversity in mood.

While the US presidential race centers on two older white men – Joe Biden and Donald Trump – Mexico pits a female Jewish engineer against an indigenous female technology entrepreneur and a millennial congresswoman.

The frontrunner is Claudia Sheinbaum, 61, a former mayor of Mexico City, who has a double-digit lead in the polls over rival Xóchitl Gálvez. Sheinbaum promises to continue the programs of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, founder of the Morena party and a longtime icon of the left. (He is constitutionally barred from re-election).

Here’s an introduction to the presidential candidates. Voters on Sunday will also choose a new Congress, Mexico City’s mayor, eight governors and more than 20,000 local officials in Mexico’s 31 states and the capital.

Sheinbaum grew up in Mexico City as the daughter of two left-wing scientists. The family had close ties to Raúl Álvarez Garín, a leader of the 1968 pro-democracy protests, which were brutally suppressed by security forces. As a girl, Sheinbaum and her parents took food to him in prison, she said in an interview for the book “Claudia Sheinbaum: Presidenta.”

Disciplined and driven, Sheinbaum followed her mother, biologist Annie Pardo, into science. Sheinbaum earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, a traditional training ground for Mexican leaders, and spent several years doing doctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1990s.

GET SAVED

Summarized stories to quickly stay informed

She has published dozens of scientific articles on energy, the environment and sustainable development, and contributed to reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

If elected, Sheinbaum would be the first Jewish head of state in predominantly Catholic Mexico. She remembers celebrating holidays like Yom Kippur with her grandparents, who fled discrimination and Nazi persecution in their native Bulgaria and Lithuania. But she is personally not religious.

As a student, Sheinbaum became involved in university politics and helped organize a successful strike at UNAM in 1987 against an increase in tuition fees and a tightening of admission requirements. She married a leader of the student movement, Carlos Imaz, and their house became a meeting place for left-wing politicians. One of them, López Obrador, became mayor of Mexico City in 2000, as the country completed its transition from an authoritarian one-party state to a democracy. He invited Sheinbaum to become his environment minister.

In 2004, a scandal shocked Sheinbaum’s family when a video surfaced showing her husband, then an official in Mexico City, receiving a bag of money from a businessman linked to corruption. Imaz was accused of violating electoral law, but was later acquitted. The couple eventually divorced.

In 2015, Sheinbaum became city president of Tlalpan, south of Mexico City. Three years later, when López Obrador became president, she was elected mayor of the capital. She is known as a meticulous problem solver and a quiet but fiercely loyal disciple of the president.

Sheinbaum has pledged to follow López Obrador’s policies of increasing aid to poorer Mexicans and consolidating the government’s role in the energy sector. But she wants to reorient the country toward renewable energy, and rely more on police and National Guards — rather than the military — to reduce violence and crime.

Sheinbaum and Imaz raised two children; one is an academic living in the United States, the other an artist. In November, Sheinbaum married a friend from her college days, Jesús María Tarriba, an economic risk analyst.

Gálvez, 61, represents a coalition of opposition parties from the centre-right and centre-left. She is a straight-talking businesswoman who continued her political career with the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

Gálvez grew up in a rural town in the central state of Hidalgo, the daughter of an indigenous Otomí father and a mixed-race mother. She has made her life story the central story of her campaign. As a girl, Gálvez sold jello cups and tamales on the street to support her family. She says her father, a teacher, drank heavily and abused her stay-at-home mother. (Both are now deceased.)

At the age of 16, Gálvez moved alone to Mexico City, where she rented an attic apartment in a working-class neighborhood and found work as a telephone operator. She was soon admitted to UNAM and studied computer engineering.

Gálvez founded two technology companies that contribute to the design and maintenance of ‘intelligent’ energy-efficient buildings.

In 2000, newly elected PAN President Vicente Fox appointed her to head a federal commission overseeing indigenous affairs. She was eventually elected leader of Mexico City’s Miguel Hidalgo neighborhood, and a member of the Mexican Senate in 2018.

Gálvez is known for wearing traditional indigenous dresses and traveling around Mexico City by bicycle. In June 2023, she seized the spotlight by appearing at the presidential palace and demanding to be admitted to López Obrador’s daily morning press conference. She wanted to refute his accusations that she was in favor of abolishing government pensions for the elderly.

He refused her entry. That led to a war of words that made Gálvez famous, praised for her witty, sometimes off-color responses. She has portrayed herself as unafraid of the powerful president, a woman with the “ovaries” to stand up to organized crime.

She has campaigned to tackle crime, strengthen government watchdog institutions created during the democratic transition, strengthen ties with the United States and attract more companies to bring their production closer to the US market .

Gálvez and her longtime partner, businessman turned musician Rubén Sánchez, have two adult children.

Máynez, 38, is a contender representing a small but growing party called the Citizens’ Movement. The federal delegate has focused his campaign on the youth vote, portraying himself as the only candidate who can change “old Mexican politics.”

Máynez grew up in the northern state of Zacatecas and earned a degree in international relations from a Jesuit university, the Institute of Technology and Higher Studies of the West. At the age of 25, he became a state legislator for the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Three years later he resigned from the PRI and joined the centrist Citizens’ Movement.

He jumped into the presidential race in January following the withdrawal of the party’s most popular presidential candidate, Samuel García, the governor of the northern state of Nuevo León.

Máynez says he would reduce the country’s reliance on the military to fight organized crime, establish a legal, regulated market for marijuana and shift state oil and electricity companies to renewable energy.

Rios reported from Monterrey, Mexico. Gabriela Martinez contributed to this report.

Back To Top