The campaign arm of the Hispanic Caucus of Congress welcomed the highest number of Democratic Latino lawmakers elected to Congress during an event Friday at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.
CHC BOLD PAC Chairman, Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, said continuing to reach out to Latino communities and young voters is key to retaking the House of Representatives in 2024, as control transitions to the state this week after the midterm elections Republican of the House of Representatives left.
Gallego said Latinos have come out and voted for Democrats in three key Senate elections — in Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania — and he expects the number of Latinos voting in 2024 will be even higher than in the midterms.
“I think there’s also a lot more sophistication in how to reach young Latinos that we haven’t had in the past,” he said. “And you’ll see that again in 2024.”
Young Latinos and black voters were key to staving off a “red wave” for this year’s midterm election. The Democrats retained control of the Senate but lost a few seats in the House of Representatives.
These new Latino members of the US Democratic House of Representatives are Congressman-elect Andrea Salinas from Oregon, Maxwell Alejandro Frost from Florida, Yadira Caraveo from Colorado, Gabe Vasquez from New Mexico, Greg Casar from Texas, Delia Ramirez from Illinois, Robert Garcia from California and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington State and Rob Menendez of New Jersey.
Ramirez, representing Illinois’ 3rd congressional district, is the first Latin American congresswoman from the Midwest. Garcia, who represents California’s 42nd congressional district, is the first Peruvian-American and openly gay immigrant in Congress.
Perez, who flipped the Republican seat for more than 12 years, will be the first auto mechanic to be elected to Congress. She ran on a platform as a moderate Democrat, drawing on her working-class roots and her support for reproductive rights and the Second Amendment.
Perez said that other than BOLD PAC, no national organization supported her bid for Congress, believing the district was a Republican stronghold.
“I think that ties directly to the fact that Latinos need to find opportunities where people tell us there aren’t,” she said. “We don’t wait for permission, we just kick in the door and do the thing.”
Salinas, a Mexican-American and also the first Latina to represent Oregon at the federal level, said when her parents first came to the United States, they picked cotton and tomatoes in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Only I feel like I’m in America, where my father, as someone who worked in the fields, can come into this country and on January 3 watch his daughter be sworn in as a member of Congress,” she said.
All members are sworn in on January 3, the start of a new Congress.
Salinas District, Oregon’s 6th congressional district, has the largest Latino population in the state.
Caraveo, a pediatrician representing Colorado’s 8th congressional district, is the first Latina to represent the state at the federal level.
Frost, an Afro-Cuban, will be the first Gen Z candidate to be elected to Congress. He ran in Florida’s 10th congressional district after US Rep. Val Demings, who held the seat, opted to run for the Senate against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio.
(Generation Z is anyone born between 1997 and 2012.)
Frost, 25, said the final weeks of his campaign were difficult because his grandmother, who came to the US from Cuba to escape the Fidel Castro regime, died. He said he’s spent the past three weeks at her bedside listening to her stories of when she first came to the United States and how she worked multiple factory jobs in Hialeah, a Miami-Dade County town.
“She didn’t have anyone to look out for her,” he said.
Frost said his 97-year-old grandmother still had stains on her arms from the chemicals she was exposed to at the factories. He said he wonders what life would have been like for his grandmothers if they had had a union to represent and protect them and had access to a decent wage.
“I think as immigrants and immigrant families, we hold these stories as a mark of honor and pride, and we should, but at the same time we also have to deal with exploitation and the fact that our ancestors and our families shouldn’t.” We had to go through that first,” he said.
US Democratic Senator Alex Padilla also made history as the first Latino elected from California. It was tapped by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to end the tenure of current Vice President Kamala Harris.
Menendez, who will represent New Jersey’s 8th congressional district, is the son of Democratic US Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Several Republican Latinos were also elected to Congress: US Representative-elect George Santos of New York, Anna Paulina Luna of Florida, Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, and Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon.
And many of these future lawmakers have already made history.
Santos becomes the first openly LGBTQ incumbent Republican elected to Congress. Luna will be Florida’s first Mexican-American woman elected to Congress, and Ciscomani will be Arizona’s first Latino Republican elected to represent the state.
Chavez-DeRemer, who turned over a Democrat-held seat, is also the first Latina to serve Oregon in Congress.