Republican and Democratic Latinas running for Congress in more than five states could make history in the midterm elections next month.
At the same time, Latina lawmakers who have already made history are looking to defend their seats.
The races are being run at a time when Latina political underrepresentation persists at all levels of public office, according to a new report from the Center for American Women and Politics and Latinas Represent released Wednesday. Despite making up about 9.3% of the U.S. population, Latinas make up less than 3% of officials elected to statewide executive offices, state legislatures and Congress.
In many districts, Latina candidates will be decisive in determining the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo could become Colorado’s first Latina elected to Congress if she wins the race to represent the newly drawn 8th Congressional District north of Denver.
Caraveo, the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a pediatrician, was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2018. During her time at the state house, she has focused on health care policy, voting and reproductive rights, among other issues, according to her campaign website.
The new district has the largest percentage of Hispanics in the state, at 39%. Caraveo faces Republican state Sen. Barabara Kirkmeyer.
In Illinois, two candidates are looking to make history as the state’s first Latina congresswoman: Democratic state Rep. Delia Ramirez in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, and Republican newcomer Catalina Lauf in the 11th Congressional District.
Ramirez became the first Guatemalan American elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 2018. Since becoming a state representative, Ramirez has worked on passing legislation expanding Medicaid coverage to senior citizens, securing funding to build affordable housing, protecting abortion rights and creating an elected school board in Chicago, according to her campaign website. She faces Republican Justin Burau.
Lauf is looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Bill Foster, in a race currently rated as “Likely Democratic” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Lauf, the daughter of a Guatemalan immigrant, was appointed to the Trump administration in 2018 as a special adviser under Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee. If elected, Lauf, at 29, would be one of the youngest women elected to Congress.
The youngest woman elected to Congress is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who was also 29 when elected in 2018. She is now running for re-election.
Salinas is running the state’s 6th Congressional District in a “Democrat toss-up” race, according to the Cook Political Report. Salinas, whose Mexican-born father served in Vietnam and later became a police officer, joined the state Legislature in 2017. During her time in office, she has worked to increase access to affordable health care as well as paid family and medical leave and worked to ensure the state had an accurate 2020 census count, according to her biography. She faces Republican businessman Mike Erickson.
Chavez-DeRemer is vying for an open seat in the 5th Congressional District in another “Democrat toss-up” race in Oregon. She became the first Latina and first female mayor of the city of Happy Valley in 2010 and was re-elected 2014. Before that, Chavez-DeRemer served on the Happy Valley Parks Committee and the Happy Valley City Council. Throughout her campaign, she has focused on economic issues, safety and law enforcement issues, among others, according to her website. She faces Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner.
Republican Yesli Vega could be the first Latina to represent Virginia in Congress, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.
Vega is looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in a race rated as “Lean Democrat” by the Cook Political Report. The daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, Vega has had a long career in law enforcement and was elected to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in 2019. During her time there, Vega fought against gun control measures and raising property taxes and supported preserving the agreement allowing local law enforcement to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to her campaign website.
Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo is facing Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in a race the Cook Political Report has rated as “Lean Republican” to represent the 27th Congressional District, which includes parts of Miami.
Born in Colombia, Taddeo was the first Latina Democrat elected to the Florida state Senate in 2017 and is now looking to become the first Jewish Latina in Congress, Jewish Insider reported. She’s championing “Democratic values” such as affordable health care, living wages, and abortion and reproductive rights, according to her campaign website. She touts her support for a hard-line stance on leftist or socialist governments, speaking often about her father’s kidnapping by leftist FARC rebels. Taddeo has also served as the chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and has been appointed to leadership positions within the Democratic National Committee.
Salazar, a former journalist and TV host of Cuban descent, was among a handful of Republicans in 2020 who were able to flip seats Democrats had won in 2018. According to her biography, Salazar has been “committed to acting tirelessly in defense of individual rights and liberties, spearheading economic development and job training efforts, and promoting environmental resiliency in her community.” Salazar, who like Taddeo touts her hard-line stance against leftist and socialist governments, is anti-abortion and has received 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee during her 2021-22 term.
A fight to flip traditional seats, protect historic wins
Rep. Mayra Flores made history this summer when she became the first Republican Latina elected to Congress from Texas and the first Mexican-born congresswoman after winning a special election to replace Democratic incumbent Rep. Filemón Vela, who resigned in March. Flores is on the ballot again in November to defend her newly won seat representing Texas’ 34th Congressional District. Flores touts her anti-abortion and anti-gun control stances well as her support for former President Donald Trump, who publicly endorsed Flores and other Latina Republicans in a recent rally in South Texas. She faces another House incumbent, Democratic Rep. Vicente González, who is also Mexican American.
Several other Latina Republicans are running as part of Texas Republicans’ efforts to send more Latinas to Congress. Among them are Jenny Garcia Sharon in the 37th Congressional District and Carmen Maria Montiel in the 18th District.
Republicans Monica De La Cruz and Cassy Garcia are among the Latinas who could flip Democratic-held seats in South Texas. De La Cruz is facing Democrat Michelle Vallejo to represent the 15th District in a race rated as “Likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report, while Garcia is facing slightly tougher odds against Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar in the 28th District.
The push to send more Republican Latinas from Texas to Congress came after Democratic Reps. Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia made history in 2018 as the first Latinas elected to the House from Texas.
Escobar and Garcia are now running for re-election. Of the two, Escobar happens to be only one facing another Latina, Republican candidate Irene Armendariz-Jackson, to represent Texas’ 16th District.
Democrat Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez made history in 2020 when she became the first Latina elected to represent New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, historically Democratic. Fernandez is now facing the same opponent, Latina Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson, in a race the Cook Political Report rated as “Likely Democrat.”
Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes is another Latina in New Mexico looking to flip a Democratic-held seat in the state. She aims to unseat Democratic Rep. Melanie Ann Stansbury in the 1st District.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, made history as the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate and the first woman elected to the Senate from Nevada. In a contest that could determine control of the Senate, Cortez Masto is running against Republican Adam Laxalt in a race that has been deemed a “toss-up“ by the Cook Political Report. Cortez Masto, a former state attorney general, is focusing on her support for abortion rights and combating inflation and economic issues as she emphasizes that Laxalt tried to overturn Biden’s win in the state by pushing the lie that the 2020 election was “rigged.”
Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who is half Cuban and half Greek, is currently the only Hispanic Republican elected official in New York City. She was the first Cuban American woman elected to office in New York state, as well as the first person of Hispanic descent elected from Staten Island. Malliotakis is looking to keep her seat in the 11th District, which also covers parts of Brooklyn, and is touting her stances on combating inflation and other economic issues. She faces a rematch against Max Rose, the Democrat she ousted from the seat in 2020.