A class of newly elected Latinos in Congress sets a record

J. Scott Applewhite

Democratic Rep.-elect Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who flipped a red Washington House seat in a surprising upset, credited her victory, in part, to support from BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Gluesenkamp Perez said in a Capitol Hill news conference Monday that almost no national organizations endorsed her in her race, but BOLD PAC “was one of the only ones that saw the opportunity, that believed in me.”

At the news conference, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., chairman of BOLD PAC, introduced Democrat Latinos who were elected to Congress in last week's midterms. BOLD PAC spent a record $6 million supporting the candidates in their races.

There are currently 38 Latinos in Congress, 28 of them Democrats and 10 Republicans, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

After the elections, that number has increased to at least 45 in the next Congress that starts in January, with 34 Democrats and 11 Republicans, which would make it a record number of Latinos in Congress, according to NALEO. It will be the first time Hispanic legislators make up over 10% of the 435-member House of Representatives.

So far there are nine Democratic newcomers and four new Republicans. Several of them are the first Hispanics elected to Congress from their respective states.

Two California races with Latino candidates still were being counted Friday.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus was founded as a bipartisan caucus, but as Republicans numbers grew, GOP members broke off and formed the Congressional Hispanic Conference.

Gallego noted that along with additional numbers, the new Latino class has many more Spanish speakers.

Gallego said the election of so many Latinos sends the message, “Invest in Latino voters. Talk to Latino voters early and recruit Latinos and Latinas to run and not just in majority Latino districts. We have a lot of Latino members here who won and not in majority Latino districts,” he said.

The Democratic newcomers so far are Andrea Salinas, Oregon 6th Congressional District; Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Florida 10th; Yadira Caraveo, Colorado 8th; Gabe Vasquez, New Mexico 2nd; Greg Casar, Texas 35th; Delia Ramirez, Illinois 3rd; Robert Garcia, California 42; Rob Menendez Jr., New Jersey 8th; and Gluesenkamp Perez, Washington 3rd.

Republican newcomers thus far are Juan Ciscomani, Arizona 6th Congressional; Anna Paulina Luna, Florida 13th; Lori Chavez-DeRemer, Oregon 3rd and Monica De La Cruz, Texas 13.

NALEO's total count can differ from the House tally and those of other groups because of differences in how candidates are identified as Hispanic. For example, some groups include members of Portuguese descent in their totals, but NALEO follows the federal definition of Hispanics, defined as "individuals whose origin is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or any other Spanish-speaking country."

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com