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Latinos rack up record wins in US Congress, most opposed to Trump

Alina Dieste


Nov 15, 2018

Washington (AFP) - Latino candidates made record gains in congressional elections this week, boosting representation for the United States' largest minority, with many running in opposition to President Donald Trump.

The 116th Congress of the United States, which will begin its session on January 3, will have the most Latino members ever, most of them from the opposition Democratic Party that won control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday's midterms.

The lower chamber of the US Congress will have 37 members of Latino origin, according to the NALEO Educational Fund, which aims to facilitate Latino participation in the politics process.

The two Latino Senators who were defending their seats -- Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Texas Republican Ted Cruz -- also won their races.

Fellow Latino senators Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, and Catherine Cortez-Masto, a Democrat from Nevada, both have another four years before facing re-election.

Latinos competing for state positions in 36 states also saw their numbers rise from 13 to 14, said NALEO, which noted that the growth in Latino representation was spreading beyond the traditional Hispanic population centers of Texas, California and Florida. "There are no longer Latino or non-Latino districts," said NALEO director Arturo Vargas.

Of the 59 million Hispanics in the United State -- 18 percent of the population -- 29 million were eligible to vote, according to the Pew research center.

NALEO was hoping for a 15 percent increase in Latino participation in the vote, as compared to the 2014 midterms. Although no official figures have yet been produced, it said media reports suggested that number had been surpassed.

- More Trump opponents-

"Latinos made history. Never before has our voice been heard more loudly or more broadly in the ballot box," said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.

Latinos did not necessarily just vote for Latino candidates, however. In parts of Texas, for example, Cruz was beaten by Beto O'Rourke, the rising star of the Democratic Party who is a staunch critic of Trump's anti-immigration policy.

"The midterm election results showed a clear defeat for the politics of hate," said UnidosUS, the largest organization defending Hispanic rights in the country, which said the Latino vote helped the Democrats win back the lower house.

"The data are pretty clear: Latino anger at the Trump administration is at an all-time high," said Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions, the leading polling service among Hispanics.

Most of the Latinos in the next Congress will be opponents of Trump. The number of Democratic Latino members in the House leapt from 27 to 32, while remaining stable in the Senate.

The number of Hispanics representing the Republican party dropped from seven to five.

In state executive posts, Democratic Latinos also outperformed their Republican counterparts. Of the 14 elected, only three -- in Florida, Texas and Utah -- were from Trump's party.

Exit polls showed that 68 percent of Latinos voted Democrat, as opposed to 30 percent for Republicans, although that figure was up from the 28 percent who backed the president in 2016.

- Hispanics make history -

Of the three Hispanic candidates running for governorships -- all of them Democrats -- only one made it, in New Mexico. Current congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham will replace Republican Susana Martinez, the first Hispanic female governor in the United States. In Florida, Jeanette Nunez was elected deputy governor, the first Latina to occupy the position.

Other Latinos also made history.

The next Congress will have three more Latina women than its predecessor. One of them, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who just turned 29, is the youngest woman ever elected to the House.

Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia will be the first women from Texas to take seats in the lower house, while former American football player Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican, will be the first Latino to represent the state of Ohio.

In Florida, a Republican Latino who was critical of Trump, lost his seat to a Latina Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who was born in Ecuador.

In the south of the Sunshine State, another Republican seat was lost when Maria Elvira Salazar lost to Democrat Donna Shalala in a district that had been held since 1989 by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, who retired.

Monica Martinez, who was born in El Salvador, was also elected to the New York state senate.