New wave of Hispanic lawmakers to hit House
Coverage of the 2022 midterms focused heavily on Hispanic voters, but Latino candidates also left a mark: voters will send more Hispanics to represent them in Washington than ever before.
Democrats will welcome nine new Hispanic representatives from nine different states, a sampling of the voting bloc’s geographic diversity.
The GOP will bring in at least four new Hispanics to Congress, also all from different states. They could get a fifth in businessman John Duarte if he is able to hang on to his lead in a California district.
Here are the Hispanic newcomers who will be sworn in in January:
Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.)
Andrea Salinas, a local legislator, was the top recruit for Bold PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Salinas faced stiff opposition in her primary from an opponent bankrolled by a super PAC linked to cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried and from Democratic leadership, as well as a self-funded Republican in the general election.
Bold PAC invested heavily in Salinas — though nowhere near the $13 million spent against her in the primary — and set the tone for strong showing for Hispanic candidates nationwide.
Salinas will represent Oregon’s newly-created 6th Congressional District.
Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.)
Though her race received much less national attention than the Salinas race, Lori Chavez-DeRemer’s win to flip a purple Pacific Northwest district shows the GOP’s appeal in the region.
Oregon’s 5th District, now represented by Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, saw two major upsets in the election cycle, first with Democratic nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner beating Schrader in the primary, and then with Chavez-DeRemer’s general election win.
Chavez-DeRemer, a former suburban mayor who twice lost bids for the Oregon House, eked out a narrow win against McLeod-Skinner, leaving local Democrats fighting over whether Schrader would have been a better nominee.
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.)
It was the year of the Latina in the Pacific Northwest.
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez engineered perhaps the most surprising pickup of the whole election, and she will take over for another Latina, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who lost her primary to far-right Republican Joe Kent.
Gluesenkamp Pérez was mostly overlooked as a political newcomer running in a seat that’s been in Republican hands since 2011.
But in a Bold PAC victory lap at the Democratic National Committee headquarters Friday, Gluesenkamp Perez stole the show with her story of running an uphill campaign as an auto repair shop owner.
“Almost no national organizations endorsed me in this race. Bold PAC CHC was one of the only ones that saw the opportunity, that believed in me. And I think that’s directly related to the fact that Latinos have to find opportunity, where people tell us there is none, we don’t wait for permission, we just kick the door down, we do the thing,” said Gluesenkamp Perez.
Robert Garcia (D-Calif.)
If Gluesenkamp Perez was the least expected incoming Democrat to win her election, Robert Garcia is the Democrats’ most-awaited incoming member.
As mayor of Long Beach, Calif., since 2014, Garcia has built solid political and policy credentials.
He is the first Peruvian American elected to Congress, in a redrawn district that spans the traditional Mexican American power base in Los Angeles and the pro-business port communities of Long Beach.
Garcia easily bested his primary opponents to move on to an almost procedural general election in a heavily Democratic district.
Yadira Caraveo (D-Colo.)
Like Salinas in Oregon, Yadira Caraveo won a newly created Western district with a substantial Hispanic population.
Caraveo, a pediatrician, has represented parts of her district in Colorado’s House of Representatives since 2019. She eked out a slim win in a district that election observers predicted would likely swing Republican.
State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, the GOP nominee, conceded to Caraveo on the day after the election, long before the race was officially called.
She will be the second practicing medical professional to join the CHC, after Chairman Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).
Greg Casar (D-Texas)
Greg Casar easily bested Republican Dan McQueen to win his Texas district, which spans from Austin to San Antonio.
Casar, a young Latino progressive in Texas, will give Democrats a base of operations to push their message from the state’s liberal cities into the Rio Grande Valley.
Despite being only 33 years old, Casar has seven years of experience serving in the Austin City Council.
“My district is a majority Latino district, we ran on working people’s issues and civil rights — we won the primary with four times the votes of any other candidate, won the general election by over 40 points, because we showed that when you engage the Latino community, when you show up for working people, when you vote for Latinos and their issues, then they show up and have our backs and vote for us,” Casar said.
Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas)
Monica De La Cruz was the sole winner of a triad of GOP Latinas who challenged historical Democratic dominance in the Rio Grande Valley.
Although De La Cruz was aided by a redrawn map that turned her district toward Republicans, she faced a strong contender in Michelle Vallejo, a progressive who largely ran with scant national Democratic support.
Still, De La Cruz will embody the GOP’s pitch for the future of Hispanic representation in Texas, and she will provide a platform for future conservative plays in the region.
When she first ran against Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) in 2020, De La Cruz came within 3 points of victory before redistricting.
Gonzalez ran in former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela’s old district, besting Rep. Mayra Flores (R), rather than face De La Cruz with the redrawn borders.
Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.)
Gabe Vasquez will take over from Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) after winning a district that’s flipped parties three times in as many elections.
Vasquez, who was born in El Paso but grew up on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, won significant goodwill in his party for unseating Herrell, who was a top target for Democrats.
The former Las Cruces city councilman won the district with newly redrawn lines, but is quick to point out that he jumped in the race before redistricting.
“I ran because I thought we needed a change. And with Yvette Herrell, one of her very first votes in Congress being to deny the election of 2020, somebody who is anti-decisionmaking for women’s health care decisions, somebody who has not brought home a single dollar to our district, I was going to run against certain regardless of what happened,” Vasquez said.
Delia Ramírez (D-Ill.)
Delia Ramirez will represent a nearly 50 percent Hispanic district, joining Rep. Jesús García (D-Ill.) as Illinois’s second Hispanic representative.
But Ramirez might soon be the state’s sole Hispanic representative, as García – known as Chuy – has launched a bid to become mayor of Chicago.
Ramirez, the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, has served in the Illinois House of Representatives since 2018.
Rob Menendez (D-N.J.)
Rob Menendez, the son of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), will succeed fellow Cuban American Rep. Albio Sires (D) in a northern New Jersey district.
Menendez, a practicing lawyer, became the first Hispanic commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2021.
“I’m going to represent the 8th Congressional District in New Jersey. This is where my grandparents, when they left Cuba, where they planted their American roots,” Menendez said.
“This is where people look and believe in American opportunity, the American Dream is still alive, is being fueled by people who immigrate to this country because they believe in hard work, there’s upward mobility, that is what I’m going to fight for,” he added.
George Santos (R-N.Y.)
George Santos is the first Brazilian American and the first openly gay nonincumbent Republican elected to Congress.
He also joins a crop of New York Republicans who dealt the state’s Democrats a handful of painful and unexpected losses.
Santos flipped a Long Island seat in defeating Democrat Robert Zimmerman. He will replace Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.), who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) in the Democratic primary for governor.
Both Zimmerman and Santos are gay — their race was the first ever congressional race between two openly gay people in U.S. history.
Santos, an investment banker, was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, to attend former President Trump’s speech outside the White House, but has said he was never on Capitol grounds during the insurrection, which he labeled a “dark, dark, day.”
Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.)
Maxwell Alejandro Frost will be the first Generation Z member of Congress.
To get there, Frost had to clear his path through a crowded primary field that included two former members of Congress.
Upon his nomination, Frost immediately received headlines because of his youth. He is 25 years old, though he has a decade of political organizing under his belt.
Though Frost had a relatively easy path in the general election, his experience as a candidate was marred by his grandmother’s death.
“She recently passed away during the last few weeks of the campaign. And you know, over those last few weeks I have spent a lot of time at her bedside, hearing her stories, talking with her about her hopes and dreams and things she wished she could have done,” said Frost.
Frost said his grandmother left Cuba for Florida on the Freedom Flights of the 1960s, and in Florida worked underpaid and dangerous jobs.
“For the rest of my life, I’m going to tell her story, I’m going to think about that dream that she deserved. And think about the future generations that shouldn’t have their dream proscribed for them because they’re Latino, because they’re immigrants, but that they create their own future for the world that they want to live in and what they want to do,” said Frost.
Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.)
Anna Paulina Luna, a Mexican American Air Force veteran, will join a growing group of conservative firebrand influencers in the House GOP conference.
Luna will take over the seat vacated by former Rep. Charlie Crist (D), who left the House to challenge Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
She will take over a 13th Congressional District that has been redrawn to favor Republicans.
In 2020, Luna challenged Crist and lost under the previous map.
Luna has worked as a model, as an influencer and as the Hispanic outreach director for Turning Point USA, the conservative nonprofit headed by activist Charlie Kirk. Published to The Hill.