POLITICS

Latinos poised to reach record number in Congress

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16:  Religious leaders raise their hands in prayer towards the Capitol Building on the morning of October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. Today marks the 16th day of the government shutdown and the last day to find a solution before the government could potentially begin defaulting on debts.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: Religious leaders raise their hands in prayer towards the Capitol Building on the morning of October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. Today marks the 16th day of the government shutdown and the last day to find a solution before the government could potentially begin defaulting on debts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

Latinos have the potential to break political records in this mid-term election, said the head of a national non-profit group that works toward greater Latino involvement in politics.

If the House of Representatives gains four more Latino members, Congress would have its highest number of Latinos in history, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund.

As for the ballot box, NALEO estimates that nearly 8 million Latinos will vote this year, an increase of 1.2 million from 2010.

“Latinos will play a key role in shaping the nation’s political landscape in two weeks,” said Vargas at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C on Tuesday. “Latinos are poised to demonstrate their power as both voters and candidates on Election Day, with Latino candidates likely to make history as the largest class of Latinos in the 114th Congress.”

Congressional races in Arizona, California, New Hampshire and West Virginia could help Latinos who appear to have a strong shot at winning reach a new record in the House of Representatives, NALEO said, by raising their number from 28 to 32.

Candidates running strong campaigns include Republican Marilinda Garcia, a state representative in New Hampshire who is challenging incumbent Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, a Democrat; former Arizona State Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat who is running unopposed for the 7th Congressional District seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, also a Democrat; Republican Alex Mooney, a former Maryland state senator who is running in the West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District against businessman Nick Casey, a Democrat. The West Virginia seat is being vacated by incumbent U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate.

Nearly 20 Latinos are running for statewide office, including in such places as Rhode Island and Wyoming, NALEO noted.

Governors Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, both Republicans, are expected to handily win re-election.

And several gubernatorial candidates around the nation have picked Latino running mates.

Moreover, two Latina contenders for lieutenant governor are running in Nevada and Texas, where these positions call for candidates to run on their own, not with the gubernatorial candidate.

In Nevada State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, a Democrat, is running against State Sen. Mark Hutchison, a Republican. In Texas, State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat, is challenging State Sen. Dan Patrick, a Republican.

Latino voters can play a pivotal role in various tight races around the country, NALEO said.

Those include gubernatorial races in Arizona, where Latino registered voters are 16 percent of the electorate; Florida, where Latinos are 15 percent of voters; and Illinois, where Latinos are 8 percent of voters.

In Colorado, Latinos are about 10 percent of registered voters, giving them the potential to be a determining factor in the tight Senate race between incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, and his GOP challenger, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner. 

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