From Texas to New York, Latinas made electoral history all across the U.S.
Texas candidates Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia were among the 33 of the 41 Latinx Democratic candidates who won their bids for Congress this week, making history as the first Latinas to, finally, represent the state in the United States House of Representatives. As Daily Kos’s Laura Clawson noted earlier this week, the efforts of Latinas in the midterms were particularly noteworthy.
New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to the House, at just 29. In New Mexico, it seemed Xochitl Torres Small had failed in her big run to flip a Republican seat, until absentee ballots buoyed her to victory the day after Election Day. “Torres Small becomes the first woman to win the seat, and only the second Democrat,” the Las Cruces Sun Times reports.
In total, the New York Times continues, “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 … 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 New Mexico, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and a champion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, became the nation’s first Latina Democratic governor. In Minnesota, Maria Regan Gonzalez was elected Richfield mayor, becoming the first Latina to lead a city in the state. “I feel very honored,” she said. “It’s just another opportunity for more people to see themselves as a leader.”
While Latinx representation in Congress continues to remain too low, Tuesday’s wins can serve as a guideline for increasing those gains the next time around. Enthusiasm was high this election, with leading pollster Matt Baretto saying that “the net wave of the Democratic pickup is due entirely to strong support from minority communities who voted Democrat.” A groundbreaking survey of young voters in Texas found that Latinas took “the lead on crucial efforts to turn out the Latino vote.”
So much of it was personal, as well. “I knocked on the door of an older woman who cried at the doorstep because she never thought she’d see this day,” Escobar said, “and that makes me emotional because I know she came from a generation that had it more difficult than I will ever experience.”