The 112th Congress of the United States gets sworn into office today, and amongst its ranks are a number of newly elected Hispanics – all Republicans.
Of the ninety new members, six are Latinos, including one each from the states of Washington and Idaho.
Marco Rubio becomes only the second Latino currently serving in the US Senate. From Florida, he, like his Democratic counterpart, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, is Cuban American.
What is also notable in this new crop of Latino elected officials, is that with the exception of the two members from Florida, the others did not win the majority of the Hispanic vote in their respective elections.
As previously reported in La Plaza, largely due to the extreme immigrant bashing rhetoric by the Republicans, pollsters found that Hispanics who voted in the mid-term elections did so overwhelmingly for Democrats.
The new Congressional group will provide both challenges and opportunities for the GOP. Many in the Republican Party understand the need to court Latino voters and who better to do so than members from their own community. However, many hard-liners in the party ran on aggressive anti-immigrant platforms. Their influence over their party’s legislative agenda will challenge efforts to reach out to Hispanics alienated over overt immigrant-bashing rhetoric and actions.
In addition to Sen. Rubio, the new Latino members of Congress are:
David Rivera: He defeated a Hispanic Democrat in an open race for Florida’s 25th Congressional District. Plagued by questions over financial dealings during the campaign, his hometown newspaper, The Miami Herald, wrote a lengthy story earlier this week, even before Rivera is sworn in, raising questions about loans he received from a gambling referendum firm and revealing an investigation underway by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office.
Jaime Herrera Beutler: She is a former White House intern during the George W. Bush administration. As a product of homeschooling herself, Herrera-Beutler’s election is being celebrated by the publicly active homeschooling movement.
Francisco “Quico” Canseco: From Texas, he defeated incumbent Democrat, Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, to represent parts of San Antonio and the southwestern region of his state. A banker who was backed by the Tea Party, Canseco is a strong supporter of repealing the health care legislation that was signed into law last year.
Bill Flores: He will represent the 17th Congressional District of Texas. A former energy company executive, he will now sit on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Raul Labrador: NPR included Labrador, the newly elected member from Idaho’s 1st District, on its list of “Rising Starts of the GOP.” A Tea Party favorite, he defeated the GOP establishment candidate in the primary and the incumbent Democrat in a nasty race. A former immigration attorney, he proclaims himself to be fiercely, “anti-amnesty” and believes he is the most qualified member of Congress to tackle the immigration issues. Born in Puerto Rico, Labrador advocates the use of National Guard troops on the US/Mexico border.
Other notable offices that Latinos now hold include the governorship of New Mexico. Susana Martinez becomes the state’s first woman governor, and the nation’s first Latina to serve as a governor. Martinez, a Republican, was sworn into office on Jan. 1 in a ceremony that included a six-year old also named Susana Martinez who recited the pledge of allegiance in Spanish.
In Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Dominican immigrants beat a crowded field to become the city’s first Hispanic mayor. Democrat Angel Taveras was sworn in on Monday and like so many others in his position, faces a city budget that is grappling with serious financial challenges.
Names of Republican Members of Congress source: National Association of Latino Elected Officials.