She served as a municipal judge before becoming a Houston councilmember. She's now the 16-year incumbent of a district known for it's powerful African-American leaders — including Mickey Leeland and Barbara Jordan.
Jackson Lee says she's running for reelection because the job is not finished.
"And this happens to be an enormously important time in America's history. I'm part of the new direction that this country now has the opportunity to take. I've served my district during the Clinton administration, solved a lot of problems, but there is additional work to do. I worked during the Bush administration, which was very challenging because we were in different parties, but I didn't let that stop me, I worked across the lines."
Which is true — Jackson Lee has been known to vote with Republicans on some issues including President George W. Bush's energy plan.
She says that's part of knowing how to get things done in Washington. She cites her influence in bringing stimulus funds to Texas as evidence of her leadership, saying she ranks fourth in the state for the amount of money she's secured.
"I brought in $363 million. And in this community I brought in $37 million in earmarks for 2010 — that's only for 2010. And of the grants coming out of the stimulus, we had 125. So I'm working, and I'm working to make sure that every dollar that is utilized in Washington this community gets its fair share. I'm very proud of the work that we've been able to do."
But not everyone agrees that she's getting much done. Her challenger, Jarvis Johnson, is vocal about her frequent media appearances and criticizes her involvement in events that have nothing to do with Houston, saying it's time for a change to someone who will represent the interests of the district.
Jackson Lee says it's easy to criticize from the outside.
"I believe that the word 'change' is an easy word to say. And it is a good word to say for an opponent who really has a very thin public record and very limited service to their constituency. What people really want to have is a change-agent, a person who makes things happen."
Jackson Lee is confident she'll be sent back to Washington for another term. But she's running for re-election in a political climate where it isn't always a good thing to be the incumbent.