November 3, 2000
Los Angeles, CA As the first major election of the new millennium approaches, more Latinos than ever have the potential to gain victories in Congressional and state legislative races, according to an analysis conducted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. This analysis reveals that Latinos could win as many as four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, one additional seat in State Senates and 13 additional seats in State lower Houses. These increases represent 21% growth in the number of Latino U.S. Representatives (from 19 to 23), 2% growth in the number of Latino State Senators (from 52 to 53) and 9% growth in the number of Latino State Representatives (from 139 to 152). Currently, there are Latinos in 28 state legislatures; after the election that number could grow to 32.
According to Arturo Vargas, NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director, "Not only will Latino voters play a key role in choosing our next President, they will also determine who will serve in our nation's top federal and state legislative positions. The growing Latino presence in Congress and statehouses will strengthen our democracy and is just one more sign of the dramatic political progress achieved by the Latino community."
With the balance of power in Congress at stake in this election, four Latino challenges to incumbents are involved in particularly critical contests. In California's Central Valley, television anchorman Rich Rodri-guez (R) is attempting to unseat U.S. Rep. Cal Dooley (D) to become California's first Latino member of Congress elected as a Republican. In Dallas, Texas, former Clinton Administration aide and businesswoman Regina Montoya Coggins is providing to be a formidable opponent against U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R). In Kansas, Democrats have pinned their hopes on Wichita attorney and former Congressional aide Carlos Nolla (D), who is challenging U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R), to regain a seat once considered a Democratic stronghold. In New Mexico, State Treasurer Michael Montoya is facing U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen (R); if Montoya emerges victorious, he will be the state's first Latino member of Congress since Bill Richardson left the House to become U.N. Ambassador in 1997.
At the state level, Colorado public policy executive Anthony Martinez (D) is challenging incumbent Secretary of State Donetta Daviscon (R). In state legislative contests, Latinos are likely to make particularly significant gains in California, where there could be as many as four additional Latino State Assemblymembers. Mr. Vargas noted, "California is continuing to reap the benefits of the Latino political mobilization that started last decade. With the state's legislative term limits, a wealth of talented Latino candidates are seizing the opportunity to run for open seats. Latinos are also running in more districts without predominantly Latino populations, showing that they can appeal to and represent diverse constituents."
In other states with sizeable Latino populations, Colorado and New Mexico could gain two additional State Representatives, Arizona could gain one additional State Representative, and New York could gain one additional State Senator. In some states with smaller Latino populations, candidates are seeking seats in legislatures which currently lack Latino members. In Montana, Latino candidates are involved in two very competitive State Representative contests. There could also be one new Latino in the statehouses of Georgia and New Hampshire.
According to Marcelo Gaete, NALEO Educational Fund Director of Constituency Services, "Latinos are continuing to break all the conventional rules about where they can mount successful state campaigns. This November, Latinos will win seats in the nation's traditional Latino population centers, but they will also gain victories where Latino communities are just starting to grow. They will win in districts with many Latino constituents or just a few."
Mr. Gaete also noted, "There will be even greater opportunities for Latino candidates two years from now, in the first major election after the decennial Census redistricting. In the past, Latinos made substantial progress after Congressional and state district lines were redrawn, and we expect to see this occur again in 2002."