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Despite record numbers of Latinas in political positions, they are still underrepresented compared to their population share.
Despite record numbers of Latinas in political positions, they are still underrepresented compared to their population share. Photos: Getty Images.

There are a record number of Latinas running for office, it’s still not enough

Despite record numbers of Latina elected officials, they are still underrepresented compared to their population share.

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Latinas are serving in elected official positions across the U.S. in record numbers in 2022, but are still vastly underrepresented compared to their total population according to a new report from Latinas Represent in partnership with the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP). 

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Latinos accounted for more than half of the country’s population growth in the last decade with Latinas specifically being the reason for that increase. 

With the midterm elections in less than three weeks, there are more Latinas than ever before looking to win positions at all levels of government, but the report sheds light on the work that’s left to do to achieve true equality in elected representation. 

The report reveals that Latinas represent about 3% of current leaders elected to statewide executive offices, Congress, and state legislatures despite being over 9.3% of the population in the U.S.

At the moment, just three Latinas serve as mayors of the top 100 most populous cities in the country. Latina representation at the congressional and statewide levels is also mostly confined to a small number of states. Just 10 out of 50 have Latina elected officials. 

The president’s cabinet 

Isabel Guzman is the only Latina in President Biden’s 25-member cabinet, and serves as the administrator of the Small Business Administration. Guzman previously served as director of the Office of the Small Business Advocate for California from 2019 to 2021. She also was deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to the administrator of the Small Business Administration under the Obama Administration from 2014 to 2017. 

Her appointment made her the fourth Latina to serve in that role since 1997. Previous holders include Aida Álvarez who served from 1997 to 2001, Maria Contreras Sweet, 2014-2017, and Jovita Carranza (2020-2021). Additionally, Hilda Solis was the Secretary of Labor from 2009 to 2013 under the Obama administration.

Latinas have also never been major party candidates for president or vice president, and only as third-party candidates. An example is Rosa Clemente, who was the first Afro-Latina to run for vice president on the Green Party ticket back in 2008. 

Congressional Candidates & Office Holders

Currently, 15 Latinas are in Congress, with 14 serving in the U.S. House and one in the Senate. 

This is a record for Latina representation in Congress. A final Latina, Jenniffer González-Colón, is the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico, a non-voting position and is the first woman to hold this position. Despite being 9.3% of the U.S. population, Latinas are 2.8% of all members of Congress, 3.2% of all members of the House, and 1% of all members of the Senate. 

Party-wise, Latinas represent 4.1% of all Democrats in Congress, including 4.5% of Democrats in the House and 2.1% of Democrats in the Senate. They are 1.5% of all Republicans in Congress, including 1.9% of Republicans in the House and 0% of Republicans in the Senate. And while Latinas are about 18.5% of women in the U.S. population, they are 10.2% of all women in Congress, including 11.4% of all women in the House and 4.2% of all women in the Senate. 

In the upcoming 2022 elections, three Latinas filed as major-party candidates for the Senate. This equals the high for Latina senate candidates first set during the 2020 elections. The first and only Latina in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), is vying for re-election this year, Leora Levy (R-CT) is challenging incumbent Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Laura Moreno (R-OK) lost her bid for the Republican nomination in Oklahoma’s open-seat Senate election. In 2022, 85 Latinas filed as major-party candidates for the U.S. House, which is a record. The previous record was 72, set in 2020. 

State Executive Candidates & Office Holders 

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), who is the only Latina currently serving as a U.S. governor, is one of nine Latinas currently serving in statewide elected executive office. The nine women represent 9.4% (nine of 96) of all women statewide elective executive officials and 2.9% (nine of 310) of all statewide elective executive officials in the country. 

In 2022, a record high of 24 Latinas filed as major-party candidates for statewide elected executive offices. The previous high was 15, set in 2018, with 10 winning their primary contests. Six Latinas filed as gubernatorial candidates in 2022, an increase from four in 2014.

These include Lujan Grisham (D-NM), who has advanced to the general election. She is the first Democratic Latina to be elected governor in the U.S. and the only Latina currently serving as one. 

State Legislative Candidates & Officeholders 

Latinas were part of a record high in state legislative representation in 2021 and more are to achieve adequate representation in these positions that have huge involvement in policy making at a state level. The state level is also often where elected officials start before shooting for higher office on a more national level. 153 Latinas are state legislators, including 107 members of state houses and 46 members of state senates, and Latinas are 2.1% of all state legislators and 6.7% of all women state legislators nationwide as of October 2022. 

They represent 2% of members of state houses and 6.2% of women in state houses. Additionally, they are 2.3% of state senators and 8.2% of women state senators. Finally, they are 4.3% of all Democratic state legislators and 0.4% of all Republican state legislators in the country. 

Mayoral Candidates & Office Holders 

There are only three Latinas who currently serve as mayors of the top 100 most populous cities. These are Paulette M. Guajardo (Corpus Christi, TX), Regina Romero (Tucson, AZ), and Mary Casillas Salas (Chula Vista, CA). Only five Latinas have ever served as big-city mayors in more than two decades. Michelle Romero won the mayoral election in Henderson, Nevada this past June and will be sworn in on Jan. 3, 2023. 

Mayor Paulette Guajardo from Corpus Christi, TX is running for re-election this November, but Chula Vista, CA Mayor Mary Casillas Salas cannot run for re-election because of term limits. Tucson, AZ Mayor Regina Romero is not due for re-election until the new year. Still, the November elections could bring more Latinas among big-city mayors. 

Despite growing strides for Latinas in politics over the course of time, the increase has been stagnant and slow when you look at the population size of Latinas in the U.S. More reports like these are one of few that help inform the public about these Latinas in power and influence. 

Written by Kelly Dittmar from CAWP, the full report is up for viewing at latinasrepresent.org/reports/.

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