Lucy Flores may be a state assembly woman now, but things weren't always so rosy for the UNLV law school graduate.
Lucy Flores was an at-risk teenager if there ever was one.
She stole cars, and belonged to a gang, and her calendar included regular visits with her probation officer.
Now, those black marks in her history hold a powerful life lesson – you can get here from there.
Flores, who is a two-term state assemblywoman in Nevada, this week filed to run for lieutenant governor.
The Democrat is running against Republicans State Sen. Mark Hutchison and former State Sen. Sue Lowden, according to local Nevada media.
Flores told a gathering of reporters that she would like to expand the role of Nevada’s lieutenant governor if she is elected. She often talks about her criminal past during campaign speeches to highlight how relatable she is to the common person.
“There is so much more that can be done with this office,” said Flores, 34, of being lieutenant governor. “I think it has been underutilized. And it provides a great opportunity for someone who has a vision, energy and of course, a different perspective.”
The duties of the position include tourism, transportation, economic development and being in charge of the state Senate.
She would like to add other responsibilities, such as deal with education, job training and domestic violence.
“Education has never been a priority in Nevada,” she said, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “And it’s tied to economic development. You can’t attract business if you don’t have an educated workforce.”
Flores would be Nevada’s first Latina lieutenant governor. The state, of course, already has a Latino in the governor’s seat – Brian Sandoval, a Republican.
Sandoval is seen by many political observers as a contender for the 2016 U.S. Senate election, and if he throws his hat in the ring, the lieutenant governor would complete his term.
Flores has some heavy-hitter backers, including Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.
Flores said she expects, if elected, to have a productive working relationship with Sandoval, even though he is from the opponent party.
“We actually agree more than we disagree,” she told the Review Journal.
Candidate filing ends March 14, so it remains unclear how many challengers Flores would ultimately face.
Flores is not well known in many parts of Nevada, but she said that her difficult life may help residents who have their own obstacles relate to her in some ways.
Two of her older brothers died in drug violence. Her mother left home, and the family, when she was 9 years old.
"She just decided...kids weren't for her," Flores said in a 2011 interview with Fox News Latino as she shrugged her shoulders.
Flores dropped out of high school, became pregnant and had an abortion.
She joined a gang and stole cars, at one point taking part in a high-speed police chase that ended with a 9-month sentence.
"I started getting into trouble when I was 12," Flores said. "I remember getting parole when I was 15 and getting off when I was 16. It was a very quick succession into crime."
"When I was sent on a bus shackled, going to the long-term juvenile detention facility, there's absolutely no way I imagined I'd be a part of the (Nevada) state legislature," said Flores.
Ironically, years later she got a job at a correctional facility. It brought her an epiphany.
"One day I hear a girl calling my name and I thought it was one of my co-workers, but it was a girl I used to hang out with," Flores told Fox News Latino. "I left (the gang lifestyle) and she didn't, so there she was (in jail). It was very much a 'what could've been?' instance for me."
She finished her G.E.D. at the age of 22. Soon after, in 2007, she received a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a minor in law, from the University of Southern California. It was a law class at USC that ultimately influenced her decision to attend law school.
Kate Krause, a professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law, recalled Flores as passionate about bringing justice to the wrongfully accused throughout the state of Nevada.
"Many of the people who come through the innocence project are more interested in being criminal defense lawyers, being a prosecutor, or being involved in the inner workings of the criminal justice system," said Krause. "Lucy was always much more passionate about the policy level and what was good for the state overall. I think she is an amazing person who has overcome a lot in her past and it gives her empathy to those people who are overlooked in society or whose stories aren't told."
Flores' involvement with the innocence clinic is what ultimately led to her interest in the Nevada state legislature. During her second year in law school, she took part in an externship with the Nevada state legislature, where she was able work on reforming the system of wrongful convictions in Nevada.
While there, she learned that an assembly seat in her hometown Nevada district was up for election. She campaigned for the seat while finishing up law school this past May.
"To me, it just made perfect sense," said Flores. "It was my community, the district I grew up in and still live in. It was kind of like the stars aligned for me."