Elec­tion bol­sters Latino rep­re­sen­ta­tion

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Luis Alonso Lugo

WA SHINGTON» The num­ber of Lati­nos serv­ing in Congress will rise to at least 41 in the new year, and that fig­ure most likely will in­crease when two un­de­cided races are called.

Thirty-three out of 44 Latino Demo­cratic can­di­dates won elec­tion in Tues­day’s con­tests, while six out of 15 Latino Repub­li­can can­di­dates claimed vic­tory.

Fran­cisco Pe­draza, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, River­side, thinks a small in­crease in the num­ber of Lati­nos in Congress is very im­por­tant be­cause it hap­pened de­spite re­dis­trict­ing that fol­lowed Repub­li­can vic­to­ries in the 2010 elec­tion.

“In 2014 and in 2016 elec­tions it was not that ob­vi­ous,” Pe­draza told The Associated Press. “To­day we see the im­por­tance of all the changes brought after the 2010 elec­tion.”

The 57 mil­lion Lati­nos who live in the United States are the na­tion’s largest eth­nic or racial mi­nor­ity and con­sti­tute 18 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. How­ever, their po­lit­i­cal im­pact is sub­stan­tially di­luted due to their low elec­toral turnout.

NALEO Ed­u­ca­tional Fund, a prom­i­nent non­par­ti­san Latino or­ga­ni­za­tion, said that only 6.8 mil­lion Lati­nos voted in the 2014 mid-term elec­tion.

Latino win­ners in both par­ties in­clude new faces who rep­re­sent a num­ber of firsts.

On the Demo­cratic side, Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, a 29-yearold Puerto Ri­can New Yorker and for­mer Bernie San­ders or­ga­nizer, be­came the youngest woman elected to Congress after her pri­mary vic­tory over one of the most pow­er­ful House Democrats in New York.

Veronica Es­co­bar and Sylvia Gar­cia will be the first Lati­nas to rep­re­sent Texas in the House.

And Deb­bie Mu­carsel-Pow­ell will be the first Ecuadorean to have a seat in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives after de­feat­ing twoterm Repub­li­can Rep. Car­los Curbelo in a Florida district where 70 per­cent of res­i­dents are His­panic and nearly half are for­eign-born.

Mu­carsel-Pow­ell was among eight Latino can­di­dates en­rolled in Red to Blue, a highly com­pet­i­tive pro­gram of the Demo­cratic Party de­signed to train and sup­port can­di­dates to flip Repub­li­can-held dis­tricts.

Other win­ners from that pro­gram were en­vi­ron­men­tal lawyer Mike Levin in Cal­i­for­nia, Xo­chitl Tor­res Small in New Mex­ico and An­to­nio Del­gado in New York.

A vote count that stretched into Wed­nes­day evening gave the vic­tory to Tor­res Small —a wa­ter­rights at­tor­ney who grad­u­ated summa cum laude from Ge­orge­town Univer­sity— over state Rep. Yvette Her­rell, who em­braced Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion. Tor­res Small will be the first Latina to rep­re­sent New Mex­ico’s 2nd Con­gres­sional District.

Del­gado is a lawyer from Har­vard Univer­sity and Rhodes Scholar who beat Repub­li­can Rep. John Faso from New York’s Hud­son Val­ley. Repub­li­cans seized on his brief hip-hop ca­reer to por­tray Del­gado, who is black, as un­fit for of­fice. Del­gado’s sup­port­ers called it race-bait­ing.

One House con­test in the Red to Blue pro­gram re­mained un­de­cided Wed­nes­day: Gil Cis­neros, a for­mer naval of­fi­cer and 2010 Mega Mil­lions lot­tery win­ner, run­ning in Cal­i­for­nia.

All 25 Latino Demo­cratic in­cum­bents were re-elected, in­clud­ing New Jersey Sen. Bob Me­nen­dez, who won a third Se­nate term de­spite a fed­eral bribery in­dict­ment that pros­e­cu­tors dropped this year after a mis­trial.

Reps. Luis Gu­tier­rez of Illi­nois and Ruben Ki­huen of Ne­vada did not seek re-elec­tion.

Among Repub­li­cans, the num­ber of Latino law­mak­ers fell to six from the cur­rent eight, while the re-elec­tion of Rep. Jaime Her­reraBeut­ler re­mained un­de­cided in Wash­ing­ton state.

Ex­cept Curbelo, the other five in­cum­bents were re-elected, in­clud­ing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who staved off a tough chal­lenge from Demo­crat Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

The Latino Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion in the House will lose Reps. Ileana Ros-Le­hti­nen of Florida and Raul Labrador, a fourth-term Puerto Ri­can con­gress­man who lost Idaho’s gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary to Lt. Gov. Brad Lit­tle.

Ros-Le­hti­nen, the first Latina and the first Cuban-Amer­i­can elected to Congress and the first Repub­li­can woman elected from Florida, is re­tir­ing after 30 years.

For­mer Ohio State Univer­sity foot­ball star and busi­ness­man An­thony Gon­za­lez was the only win­ner among the three Latino can­di­dates for the House that the GOP sup­ported through its Young Guns pro­gram, which de­vel­ops and sup­ports vi­able can­di­dates for com­pet­i­tive races.

Gon­za­lez, a grand­son of Cuban ex­iles, will be the first Latino to rep­re­sent Ohio in Congress.

They join Repub­li­can Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Florida and Demo­cratic Sen. Cather­ine Cortez Masto of Ne­vada, who are cur­rently serv­ing their terms.

At the state level, Rep. Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham was elected New Mex­ico gover­nor, de­feat­ing Repub­li­can Rep. Steve Pearce.

Tom Gral­ish, The Philadel­phia In­quirer

U.S. Sen. Bob Me­nen­dez cel­e­brates his re-elec­tion in Hobo­ken, N.J., on Tues­day while Gov. Phil Mur­phy stands at right.

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