Loyola alumnus Flavio Bravo won the Democratic nomination for state representative in Arizona’s 26th Legislative District at just 28-years-old. The former Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) president and 2016 graduate is now running unopposed in the general election and is set to claim a seat in Arizona’s House of Representatives on Nov. 8.
For Bravo, entering into the political arena was non-negotiable. Having grown up constantly exposed to the mistreatment of immigrants, the Arizona native said he felt that running for office was something he had to do.
“There’s a generation of people that are my same age, and it’s like, we didn’t have a choice,” Bravo said. “You see students walking out of class as early as high school speaking out against their state legislatures — [that image] stays with you.”
Bravo was drawn to Loyola because he valued a Jesuit education and had attended Jesuit schools since he was in elementary school.
“I really appreciated how the Jesuit high school could be open to critical conversations on politics and things that were happening in Arizona,” the political science and philosophy alum said.
Bravo’s upbringing was impacted by his father’s work as a Spanish interpreter for the city of Phoenix Municipal Court and his uncle’s involvement with labor leader Cesar Chavez, co-founder of the National Farm Workers association. Both figures instilled in him the value of public service, Bravo said.
At the onset of his college career, Bravo said he was motivated to develop social justice initiatives centered around immigration. He had seen Loyola breaking ground by allowing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants into the Stritch School of Medicine.
In 2013, Bravo attended an immigration conference with Loyola where he witnessed 24 of the 28 Jesuit universities come together in Washington, D.C. to sign the Fairfield Report, an agreement committed to supporting those applying for DACA status, according to a Loyola press release.
It was on this trip that Flavio met the former vice president of student affairs, Jane Neufeld, who now works in Loyola’s Advancement Division, which supports Loyola’s philanthropic initiatives, Neufeld said. Immediately, Neufeld said she was struck by Bravo’s passion for DACA, despite only being a first-year at the time.
“He’s a shining example of the best we have to offer,” Neufeld said. “I think that he’s gonna be the president one day.”
Bravo decided to run for president of SGLC at the end of his sophomore year, with the idea of a scholarship for undocumented students being central to his platform, Bravo said.
After winning the election as an underclassman, Bravo began working toward creating Loyola’s Magis Scholarship Fund, which was approved by the Board of Trustees’ finance committee on Dec. 1, 2015.
The scholarship, which is financed by a $2.50 per-semester increase in student development fees, provides financial support for undocumented students unable to qualify for federal aid.
Bravo launched his campaign for state representative of Arizona’s 26th Legislative District in 2021, after Democrat Rep. Raquel Terán moved to the Senate, while Democrat Robert Meza chose not to run again. As a result, two house seats are left up for grabs in Bravo’s home state of Arizona.
Bravo said he remembers being frustrated by Republican discourse surrounding immigration, which served as motivation for running.
“It never fit their narrative,” Bravo said. “The Republican Party has been a majority in Arizona for so long, speaking on immigration typically meant you’re talking about border security and not always talking about the strengths of immigrant communities.”
If elected, Bravo will be one of the youngest in Arizona’s state legislature, at age 28. Bravo said he thought back to his SGLC election at Loyola, where he won against older opposition.
One of Bravo’s biggest supporters, Sister Dolores Jean Schmidt, BVM, said that Bravo was initially apprehensive about running in the SGLC election. She said she remembers Bravo calling other Jesuit institutions, asking if any of their presidents were juniors and if they were taken seriously. Finally, after hearing back from one, Bravo found encouragement to run.
Bravo said much of his experience on the campaign trail was influenced by his time at Loyola, according to Bravo.
Prior to running in the SGLC election, Bravo had met with student groups, gauging their support. He also recalls designing a donation website for the Magis scholarship, both of which proved useful when it came time to actually implement his campaign, Bravo said.
In one of his defining policy stances, Bravo attributed being pro-choice largely to the experiences accompanying attending a university that is 66% female, Bravo said, citing the Planned Parenthood located at 5725 N Broadway St.
Inside the classroom, Bravo continued his commitment to social justice. Latino history professor Dr. Ben Johnson said he still remembers Bravo’s final paper on Ruben Salazar, a Mexican-American reporter and activist killed by police at a demonstration.
“I teach 40 to 70 students every semester, so the fact that I can remember that says something,” Johnson said.
According to Bravo, many staff, faculty and former peers from Loyola mobilized around his campaign. Bravo said he was positively surprised by the amount of support he received from the Rambler community.
Loyola’s Vice President of Government Affairs Phillip Hale was given Flavio’s name by a colleague. Bravo said Hale introduced him to local, state and federal elected officials while helping him understand the importance of public service. Despite Bravo’s many achievements, Hale said he is inspired by Bravo’s commitment to looking forward rather than backward.
“He’s someone we’re all going to be proud to say we knew one of these days,” Hale said. “I’m proud to say that now.”
Jean further echoed the Loyola community’s pride in Bravo’s achievements and commitment to Jesuit values.
“The truth is what he believes in and if we can keep politicians like that, we’re gonna be in very very good shape,” Sister Jean said.
Arizona will see Bravo on the ballot on Nov. 8, but all other Ramblers can register to vote before Oct. 8th.