Al Dia: Latina candidates are running historic races nationwide this election cycle
By: Ericka Conant
This month we honor Hispanic Americans, and one month before the General Election, it’s important to know which Latinx candidates are on the ballot on Nov. 3.
Latina candidates, specifically, are running historic races up and down the ballot. Latina leaders are coming out in full force this year, and the nation isn’t ready for what they’re capable of.
But despite being one of the largest-growing demographics in the United States, Latinas remain vastly underrepresented in elected office nationwide.
Only 20 Latinas have ever served in Congress, and of those, 13 are currently in the House, and one is in the Senate.
There is a lot at stake for representation and core issues Latinas hold dear, but it will take voters to show up. In any case, an answer will be determined in the days following Election Day, as a record number of ballots will be sent via mail, and depending on turnout, it may not be the desired outcome.
On Oct. 1, a Latina Candidate Briefing hosted by EMILY's List, BOLD PAC, Poder PAC, and Latino Victory was held to showcase three Latina candidates in a conversation centered on the importance of electing Latinas to political office.
It included candidates Candace Valenzuela (TX-24), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03), and Sandra Jauregui (NV AD-41).
“The reason it’s so important to have Latinas at the table in Congress is when important decisions are made about our community, about our lives, about our bodies, it’s important that these Latinas are there to represent us, and to legislate on issues that matter to our communities,” said Ingrid Duran with Poder Pac, a Latina-run organization that strives to get fellow Latinas elected into office.
Multiple unprecedented bids for office by Latina candidates are on the line in November, not just the fate of the Biden-Harris campaign. All across the nation, a selection of barrier-breaking Latina candidates could change the landscape of Congress in 2021.
These history-making candidates include Candace Valenzuela, who could be the first Black Latina Elected to Congress, Michelle de la Isla, who could the first Latina Congresswoman to represent Kansas, and Georgette Gómez, who could be the first LGBTQ Latina in Congress.
But this kind of diversity and change will not be possible without mobilizing the Latinx vote in a way never seen before.
“What is really keeping me up at night,” said Mayra Macias with Latino Victory, “is that this is the first time that Latinos will be the largest non-white ethnic voting bloc. We have 32 million Latinos that are eligible to vote.”
But merely being eligible does not always translate to action through voting.
Take Florida, for instance.
In 2016, Donald Trump won by 112,000 votes. At the same time, there were 1 million Latinx voters eligible to vote that did not.
“If we don’t show up to vote on Nov 3, that will fall on us,” Marcias continued, saying she fears the reaffirmation of the metaphor calling Latinx voters a Sleeping Giant.
The only way to fight this is through waking up.
The following Latina candidates are only a handful of what the future of the nation’s leaders could look like.
Candace Valenzuela, if elected, could make history in November by becoming the first Black Latina elected to Congress in United States History.
She is a champion for education, government-funded programs like public housing, and women’s rights.
She is running to represent Texas’ 24th congressional district.
“Like many women, I didn’t think of myself as the person to run for that seat. I even tried to suggest other people to fill it,” Valenzuela said at the virtual panel, touching on imposter syndrome and her reservations prior to running for office.
For women especially, it’s easy to fall into the pit of thinking of ourselves for leadership positions, another obstacle Valenzuela forced herself to hurdle.
“I went to college and majored in government. I wrote a really big thesis on the formation of nations and states. I’ve been in education for a decade. So it occurred to me that I should be doing this.” Valenzuela continued.
Teresa Leger Fernandez
Leger Fernandez’s campaign has deep ties to her New Mexico roots.
It focuses on a variety of issues leading up to the Nov. 3, election, including health care, education, and the economy. Recently, she joined a Climate Power roundtable focused on Latinx advocacy amid the climate crisis
She said her campaign very much felt like a call to action. Behind her in the call, a sign read: “Ahora es Cuando”
“Right now America is at this inflection point. We have somebody who’s trying to win with the politics of fear. He wants to win with the politics of demonizing an ‘other’. And here what I found is that we were rejecting that, we were rejecting that there is no ‘other,’ and especially Latinos,” she said. “There is an ‘us.’”
Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui
Jauregui grew up in Southern California. Her parents emigrated from Mexico and had five children, raising them with the same mantra: “If we wanted to be president, start a business, or run a business, all you had to do was work hard.”
She is now an assemblywoman for the state of Nevada, striving to fight for the equality she was taught.
Jauregi represents Assembly district 41 in Nevada, which covers parts of southern Las Vegas Valley. She will face two opponents in her district race.
“To break-down the glass ceiling,” she said, is what has kept her going, and will continue to do so.