These Latinas Are Changing the American Political Landscape. And their Communities
As Latinos become an increasingly influential group at the ballot box, conservative Latinas are making waves in the political arena like never before.
In the 2022 Midterm Elections, a record 43 Latinas ran for the US House of Representatives as Republicans, flipping several districts and disrupting the balance of power in Congress.
The current Congressional class also includes a record-breaking number of Hispanics at nearly 11% of House members.
According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, 19 Latinas currently serve in Congress. Out of the 19 members, six Republican Latinas serve in the US House of Representatives, with one serving as a non-voting delegate for the US Territory of Puerto Rico.
While historic numbers of Latinas are running for office, they have spent decades working towards increased representation.
Latina representation in Congress dates back to 1989 with the election of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), when she made history as the first Latina and Cuban-American to serve in Congress.
Ros-Lehtinen served as the Chairwoman for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she took a special interest in US relationships with Spanish-speaking nations, including Venezuela and Cuba. Known for her bipartisanship, Ros-Lehitnen served in Congress for 30 years, and was eventually succeeded by another conservative Latina, María Elvira Salazar.
While historically, Hispanic Americans have had comparatively lower voter turnout among other racial groups, Hispanic Americans are now the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the American electorate, with nearly 5 million new eligible voters since the 2018 Midterm Election, according to the Pew Research Center.
Over 50% of registered Hispanic voters identify as left-leaning on the political spectrum, and less than 30% identify as right of center. However, an increasing number of right-leaning Latina candidates have emerged as serious contenders for political power, especially in states like Texas and Florida.
Conservative Latinas are consistently recognized as leaders in the issues most important to Americans and Hispanic voters. For Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the most Hispanic-populated area in the country, the economy and immigration are consistently indicated as the most important issues to Hispanic voters, a trend that is echoed throughout the country, according to the Pew Research Center.
Texas House Member Janie Lopez (HD-37) flipped her historically liberal district in 2022, becoming the first conservative Latina to represent the Rio Grande Valley in the Texas Legislature.
The daughter of two Mexican immigrants, Lopez entered into politics through serving on her local school board where she advocated for fiscal responsibility and school safety.
As a member of the Texas House of Representatives, Lopez has introduced legislation relating to school and community safety, including a bill to increase mental health resources for communities along the southern border.
U.S. Representative Monica De La Cruz (TX-15), who represents a portion of the Rio Grande Valley, ran a campaign focused on the Southern border. Since her election in 2022, she has introduced several bills focusing on border security and has co-sponsored legislation to help stop the human trafficking of children crossing the US-Mexico Border.
While many conservative Latinas serve immigration-heavy states like Texas and Florida, Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) made history in 2022 as one of the first two Latino members of Congress from Oregon and the first Republican woman elected to federal office from the state.
A former city council woman and stay at home mom, Chavez-DeRemer has made waves in veterans affairs and immigration reform, partnering with other conservative Latinas, Representatives Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), on a bipartisan immigration reform bill earlier this year.
As conservative Latinas diversify political spaces and conversations, they’re producing innovative policy solutions aimed at addressing pressing issues for all Americans.