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Dr. Yadira Caraveo
Dr. Yadira Caraveo is the first person to ever represent Colorado's new 8th Congressional District, and the first Latina ever elected to Congress from the state. Photo: Yadira Caraveo Campaign.

Latino voters make the difference, elect Dr. Yadira Caraveo as Colorado’s first Latina in Congress

The district contains the highest percentage of Latino voters of any congressional district in the state.

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Some more Latina political history was scored on Wednesday night, Nov. 9, as Dr. Yadira Caraveo won her race for Colorado’s 8th Congressional District against Republican Challenger Barbara Kirkmeyer. It remains neck-and-neck in the vote count, but given where the outstanding votes remained, Caraveo’s campaign released a statement expressing optimism for a future victory. 

“With Yadira in the lead and significantly more votes left to be counted in Adams than in Weld, we are confident that once all of the votes have been counted, Yadira Caravero will be the first Congresswoman from CO-8,” part of the statement read. 

Not long after, many Colorado outlets reported that Kirkmeyer had called Caraveo and conceded the race.   

With the win, Caraveo is the first person to ever represent the newly-formed district in Congress, and the first Latina ever elected to Congress from Colorado. She got there on the back of a large Latino electorate in the district.

Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District comprises Adams County in the south and Weld County in the north, with a tiny portion of Latimer county in the northwest. It was drawn after Colorado gained another seat in the House of Representatives following a population boom recorded in the 2020 census. A major part of that boom was the Latino population.

Adams County is part of the northern branch of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area and the fifth most-populous county in the state. It has a Latino population that makes up 40% of its entire population.

In the 8th Congressional District, which also includes Weld and Latimer counties, the Latino adult population makes up 38% of the whole population.

The race Caraveo won was one of the most expensive and competitive of the 2022 election cycle, and her win is a big one in what will likely be a losing effort from Democrats to maintain control of the U.S. House. Still, Caraveo’s win makes the divide smaller than was previously predicted by Republicans. 

Initially, the pediatrician-turned-candidate wasn’t the favorite against Kirkmeyer, but as Latino voters in the district became more engaged, many told Axios in a report released the day before Election Day that they thought they could make the difference.

While Latinos across the country hold a multitude of different viewpoints and political outlooks — just look at the difference between results in Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania in 2022 — Latinos in Colorado polled by NALEO in the lead up to Election Day showed to side more with Democrats on their top issues.

In addition to making history, Caraveo is also doing it on behalf of the community she was raised in, as a native of Adams County. Her parents first came to the county from a small town in Mexico and raised her and her three siblings on a construction worker’s pay. It’s also where Caraveo’s parents still live.

Before politics, Caraveo pursued a degree in medicine at Regis University, where she graduated from and became a pediatrician. During med school is also when she volunteered for President Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008.

In 2018, Caraveo first ran for Colorado’s state house, and won a spot representing its 31st district, which also spans Adams and Weld counties.

As the first Latina, Caraveo also joins a rare crew of Hispanic public officials that have held high positions in the federal government. The main one that comes to mind is Ken Salazar. Currently the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Salazar is one of the few Hispanics to ever be a U.S. Senator and the only from Colorado, which he held between 2005 and 2009 before being elevated by President Obama to be his Secretary of the Interior. 

Salazar’s older brother, John Salazar, was also the first Hispanic ever elected to the House from Colorado, first in 2005. The Salazar’s trace their family heritage to the first Spanish settlers of what is now the Southwestern U.S. when it was under Spanish rule.

Caraveo’s history is one that will last just as long with her recent triumph.

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