We have nominated who we believe are the most influential Latino politicians in the United States
Each of them has dedicated their efforts to make a change, to finally listen to a society that was screaming for a change. AL DÍA presents here its first…
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It starts with the ability to influence. Every November, when we nominate and select the AL DIA POLITICIANS of the year, we focus on those who command that intangible - the “INFLUENCE” -, for their charisma, for their courage, and also for their proven abilities and achievements in the political arena.
Some were chosen simply for their upsets and unexpected victories; others, for the transformative policies they have enacted that have had the greatest impact on the progress of society.
Through an exhaustive selection process, we classified them by the performance of the previous 12 months, analyzing their voting records, their electoral scores and debate performances, then deepening the analysis to include factors such as funding sources.
But it’s not just about numbers. We lean towards the POLITICIANS who have achieved the “vision thing”: those that can impact the world beyond the districts where they are elected.
The following AL DIA 10-STAR POLITICIANS are defining the future of politics in our cities, in our states, and in our nation, as a natural manifestation of a new cohort of American political leaders representing the country’s increasingly diverse demographics and emerging blocks of new U.S. citizens and registered voters.
This goes beyond a simple listing. AL DÍA has dedicated the last 12 months to rigorously follow and document the performance of these new political leaders.
We went over hundreds of candidates for public office, elected political leaders, legislators at local state and national level, closely observing their adaptation to the new challenges, as the enticement of the millennial vote, the temptation to fall for the easy money and their campaigns' fundraising, and their creativity to thrive in the midst of the troubled waters of national politics.
Our criteria have been based on the personality of each of the players, and particularly how they adapt themselves as the new generation of politicians that truly represents the heterogeneous demographics of the United States of 2018.
These AL DIA Políticos of the Year list is, like any other list, incomplete. But this is our honest attempt to start identifying and giving recognition to the best and the brightest that are emerging in the new political landscape of our nation.
Next year we're sure our AL DIA Políticos of the Year selection will be even more comprehensive, hopefully with your input, dear reader.
Estos son los que son:
Potential presidential candidate
Castro was born in San Antonio, TX, with his identical twin Joaquin (current representative of the House) in a family of Mexican origin. His mother, María “Rosie” Castro, was a Chicano political activist and founder of the political party La Raza Unida.
Castro grew up in San Antonio and continued his professional studies at Stanford, graduating in political science and communication, and doing an internship in Bill Clinton’s White House. Later on, he entered Harvard Law School, and began his professional career with his brother, founding his own law firm in 2005.
It was in 2001 when Castro dabbled directly in politics for the first time and was elected to the Municipal Council of San Antonio with 61 percent of the vote. After an initial failure in the San Antonio mayoral race in 2005, Castro tried again in 2009, winning with 56.23 percent of the vote, becoming the fifth Latino mayor in the history of the county. He was re-elected in 2011 and 2013 with more than 60 percent of the vote on both occasions.
In 2014, the young lawyer was catapulted to the national scene when President Barack Obama offered him the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Rumored as a possible nominee for vice president for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Castro became actively involved in the support of the Democratic nominee against Donald Trump.
The Trump administration’s deep anti-immigrant agenda has prompted Castro to consider launching his presidential campaign for 2020, though he said he would wait for the results of the midterm elections.
The comfort of the position held by the Republican and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz in the conservative heart of Texas, is now a topic of debate in national politics, in the midst of the anti-Latino campaign of the Trump administration and at a time when Democrats regaining the majority in Congress is crucial.
Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, politician and businessman from El Paso, has come to the ring to challenge Cruz for the position, making himself known in the region thanks to his charismatic personality and the constant comparison that has been made with the former New York senator Bobby Kennedy.
Beto has led an “unprecedented” campaign, moving to all Texas counties. His direct communication with the electorate, in a grassroots political strategy that has characterized successful campaigns of these primaries, has not gone unnoticed, particularly among key Latino voters, including those who traditionally vote Republican or may be undecided.
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, 35 years ago, Ilhan Omar emigrated with her family to the United States in 1995 after the civil unrest forced them to flee.
In 2016, Omar was officially promoted into a position in the Minnesota House of Representatives thanks to the support of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL), beating the official in the position, Phyllis Kahn, within the party in the nomination. In November of that year, while Donald Trump won the presidency, Omar became the first Somali-American legislator in the country.
She won the Democratic primaries in August for District 5 of the state.
Considering the strong Democratic stance of the District, Omar will surely become the new member of Congress in November, joining Rashida Tlaib of Michigan as the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
In California, Congressional District 39 is seen as one of the best opportunities to capture the potential of the Democrats in 2018, as long as one Democrat leaves the main two-party system. One of these is the independent candidate Gil Cisneros, recently backed by the DCCC and who, despite his limited experience in the political field, has laid the foundations of a strong campaign based on medical assistance, protecting educational funds and improving working conditions. Cisneros rejects the contributions of the Political Action Committees (PACs) because he believes that the government should work for the people, not for special corporate interests. The polls published by the Cisneros campaign have shown him leading the field, with only 19 percent of the voting public represented.
With a military education and a political science degree, this candidate could be a key player in the so-called “Blue Wave” in the midterm elections in November.
Democratic nominee, New York City 14th Congressional district
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, born in the Bronx in New York City on October 13, 1989, is the daughter of a Puerto Rican and an architect born into a humble family in the South Bronx. She studied at Yorktown High School, where she had his first contact with politics through the Legislative Youth Sessions of the National Hispanic Institute.
Her vocation was clarified upon entering Boston University and working as an intern in the immigration office of Senator Ted Kennedy. She graduated with a degree in economics and international relations.
After graduating, Ocasio-Cortez decided to roll up her sleeves and get to work, helping her mother - who worked cleaning houses and driving buses - and returning to the Bronx to work as a barista and innkeeper.
After the family economic crisis caused by the early death of her father, her mother and grandmother had to move to Florida, and Alexandria stayed in New York to join the political movement of Bernie Sanders.
It was then that she learned the grassroots political system - knocking on doors, sitting down to talk to each of the citizens, and recognizing the importance of representation and damage of corporate investments in politics.
During her participation in the Standing Rock protests, the executive director of Brand New Congress invited her to be part of the new candidates for the primaries inspired by the ideas of Senator Sanders.
In May of 2017, Ocasio officially launched her campaign for the 14th congressional district of New York, represented for years by the president of the Democratic Caucus, Joe Crowley.
Making use of social networks, her millennial image and her ability to break with tradition (even confessing to being a socialist), Ocasio has become the most important political phenomenon in recent years.
After her victory over Crowley in the primaries, her triumph in the midterm elections in November will show that, amid the chaos, a new political time in the United States is drawing closer.
Luján was born in Los Álamos, New Mexico, and was trained in law at the University of New Mexico. Luján worked at the Agency for the Elderly under the governments of Bruce King, Gary Johnson, and Bill Richardson, arriving at the position of Secretary of the Department of Health in 2004.
In 2008, she resigned her post to launch a race to the US House of Representatives but failed to achieve the Democratic nomination. Luján tried again in 2012, winning not only the nomination but the position with 59 percent of the vote. She was re-elected for two more terms with more than 50 percent of the votes.
After becoming the director of the Hispanic Caucus in Congress, Luján is now running for the governorship of New Mexico.
Her political life has been based on support for the right to abortion, the struggle for the rights of Dreamers, gender equality, the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, gun control, the rights of the LGBTQ community, the legalization of marijuana and increasing the minimum wage.
Veronica Escobar is one of the victorious Democratic candidates in this year’s primaries. Originally from El Paso. Texas, Escobar has a background in education and law, having gotten involved in politics for the first time in 1996 through political activism in District 16. She collaborated with campaigns such as Raymond Caballero’s in 2001, before being elected as county commissioner in 2006 and serving for two terms as a judge in 2010. In Aug. 2017, Escobar resigned her position to devote herself to her campaign to replace Beto O’Rourke in the House of Representatives for the 16th District of Texas. During the month of March 2018, Escobar won the nomination with 61 percent of the votes thanks to a campaign based on the progressive model of Bernie Sanders.
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is a candidate for Congress in South Florida, in one of the “most closely followed” races, that of District 26, currently represented by the Republican Carlos Curbelo, also the son of immigrants.
For Mucarsel-Powell, who was born in Ecuador but came to the United States at age 14, Curbelo “doesn’t align with the families of this district.”
The candidate has set clear goals connected to her personal experience as a professional immigrant citizen, arguing that “the same opportunities that allowed her and her family to improve their lives are disappearing for many of our neighbors today.”
With a background in political science and political economy, the candidate is also experienced in community work in Miami-Dade with organizations such as the Hope Center, Zoo Miami Foundation and the Coral Restoration Foundation. Her priorities are medical assistance, subsidized schools, immigration, armed violence (she lost her father to the hands of violence in his country of origin) and environmental protection.
Potential candidate for mayor of Philadelphia in 2022
Councilwoman María D. Quiñones-Sánchez is an activist with more than 30 years of service in the City of Philadelphia and is currently serving a third four-year term on the City Council. Her struggle has always been to create, preserve and invest in the workforce and, therefore, in family support. In addition, Quiñones-Sánchez has advocated for ethics and transparency in government, revitalizing neighborhood economies, reforming unsafe demolition practices, and guaranteeing the rights of women, families, and workers throughout the city.
María made history in November 2007 when she gathered popular support and almost 80 percent of the vote to become the first Latina elected to a district seat on the City Council. In this way, she quickly became a rising star for her hard work and commitment to government reform.
In a race to become the first woman in New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District, Xochitl Torres Small - a lawyer and former member of Senator Tom Udall’s team - won the nomination of the Democratic party last June to compete against Yvette Herrell in the November elections. Granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and wife of a state legislator, Torres Small rarely mentioned the name of Donald Trump during her campaign, and told gun owners that she owned one(she even postponed her honeymoon to go hunting). But it was her “deep roots in the community” that gave her the advantage during the elections, as well as her unique personality and her stances against Washington politics. Another of her campaign proposals was access to medical coverage for citizens of rural areas, for which she promised low prices and greater accessibility, especially after her experience growing up in Las Cruces and having worked in Senator Udall’s team. If she triumphs in November, Torres Small will become a key player in the Democratic campaign, in a seat that has been controlled by the Republican Party for more than a decade.