News Column

Hispanic Candidates Vie for National Offices

Oct. 6, 2008

Jessica Haro--Assistant Editor, Hispanic Business magazine

Hispanic Candidates

Although U.S. Hispanics are well represented in many state houses throughout the country, especially in California, Texas, and Florida, there is still underrepresentation in many national political categories. The U.S. Congress currently has 28 Hispanic members in the House of Representatives and only three senators. This year there are more than 36 Hispanics running for House seats, including 27 incumbents and only one Hispanic senatorial candidate. California leads the way with 13 candidates for the House and is followed closely by Texas with eight House candidates and Democratic senatorial candidate Rick Noriega. There may be more Hispanic candidates after the late primaries take place, including New York and Arizona, both of which have primaries after press time.

There is one Hispanic candidate in the national race " Ralph Nader's vice-presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez. In 2003, Mr. Gonzalez, running as the Green Party candidate, nearly unseated San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, earning 47 percent of the vote.

Texas State Representative Noriega faces an uphill battle in hostile territory against the incumbent's multimillion-dollar campaign. If successful, Rep. Noriega would become the first Hispanic senator from Texas and the state's first Democratic senator in over a decade. He would become the nation's fourth Hispanic senator, joining Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ken Salazar (D-CO), and Mel Martinez (R-FL).

Rep. Noriega was first elected to the Texas House in 1998 after serving in Iraq as a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard, and as incident commander at Houston's Hurricane Katrina relief center.

Brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, both Republican, represent Florida's 21st and 25th districts respectively. While the two are favored to win their respective races, each faces serious competition from fellow Cuban-Americans Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia. Their opponents hope to benefit from the Republican Party's weakening hold on the ethnic community.

One candidate expected to win is Ben R. Lujan, a Democrat running for the open seat in New Mexico's Third District. The son of the state's House Speaker, Mr. Lujan will benefit from name recognition, a strongly Democratic electorate, and a more than $800,000 lead in fundraising.

The results of the November election could potentially include an increase of three Hispanics in the House of Representatives and one more in the Senate. Progress may seem slow, but we can expect to see the number of Hispanic representatives continue to climb as the next generation of Hispanic politicians make their way onto the national stage.

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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