Nov 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Latinos on path to make historic inroads in statehouses

Elizabeth Velasco stands on a snowy street in downtown Aspen, Colorado.

Elizabeth Velasco in Aspen, Colorado. Photo: Courtesy of Velasco's campaign.

With midterm results still coming in, Latino candidates — mostly Democrats — are expected to make record gains in state legislatures across the U.S., including Iowa and Vermont, where census data shows the Latino population has boomed since 2010.

Why it matters: Latinos have been the fastest-growing eligible voter group since at least 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.

By the numbers: So far, 64 new Latino Democrats and 15 new Latino Republicans have won state legislative seats, Kenneth Romero-Cruz, the executive director of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, told Axios.

  • There are still some outstanding races, but this could bring the number of Hispanic state legislators to more than 500, which would be a record.
  • At least nine new LGBTQ+ Hispanic candidates were elected to the legislatures of seven states: Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.
  • Alicia Kozlowski, who is Mexican American and Ojibwe, made history as the first non-binary person elected to the Minnesota Legislature.

Zoom in: Of the 451 Hispanic state legislators in office before Tuesday's midterms, 87% were Democrats, and 13% were Republicans, Romero-Cruz said.

  • That's a significant decline for Republicans since 2002, when around 30% of Hispanic state legislators were GOP members, Romero-Cruz said.
  • "This further counters the false narrative of Republican gains in the Hispanic community. Latinos are overwhelmingly electing more and more Latinos running on the Democratic ticket," Kenneth Romero-Cruz said.

Between the lines: Several Hispanic candidates elected to the U.S. House previously served in their state legislatures, illustrating how such positions are stepping stones toward a bigger office.

The intrigue: The midterms also showed how diverse Latinos are.

  • Adam Zabner, Venezuelan American, became the second Hispanic ever elected to the legislature in Iowa's history.
  • Latinos with Colombian, Salvadoran, Honduran, Cuban and Nicaraguan backgrounds were also elected around the country.

What they're saying: “We need to start speaking to Hispanic voters — not a few months before the election — now," newly-elected GOP state Rep. Rey Martinez of Georgia told Axios Atlanta's Emma Hurt.

  • Martinez will become the second Latino member of the Georgia state House Republican caucus. There will be two on the Democratic side when they're sworn in.

Of note: Democrat Elizabeth Velasco, a Mexican American firefighter near Aspen, Colorado, won a seat in the Colorado state house. She lives in the heart of the district represented by conservative firebrand U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that State Rep. Steven Sainz (R-Woodbine) is Latino and State Rep. Rey Martinez will become the second Latino member of the Republican House caucus.

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