Latinas Are Running for Governor Like Never Before

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Photo courtesy of The Santa Fe New Mexican.

The United States is gearing up for the midterm elections, a key election circuit for the country’s political future.

We have previously discussed the underrepresentation of the Latino community in the political sphere, which, while changing over time, remains a critical situation for the future of Hispanics in the United States.

This year, however, things seem to be changing.

As reported by The 19th, a record number of Latinas are running for the state’s top executive office in 2022. Six Latinas are on the major party primary ballots this year, a number that could still increase. Only one, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, is in office. Many others are in crowded primaries, competing against candidates with big fundraising power.

According to experts, even if they don’t win their party’s nomination, Latina candidates shape those races’ conversations.

“The bench is loaded,” Anna Sampaio, a professor at Santa Clara University who studies Latina and Latino politics, told The 19th. “There is a wealth of Latinas who are ready and primed to run.”

Three or four Latina candidates have run for governor in previous election cycles. The Center for American Women and Politics tracks major party candidates. By their count, the candidates this year are:

  • Annette Taddeo, a Florida congresswoman, is running for governor of Florida.
  • Sonia Chang-Díaz, a Democratic state senator from Massachusetts, is considered the first Latina and Asian American elected to the state senate.
  • Joy Diaz, Democrat and former journalist in Texas, of Mexican origin.
  • Nellie Gorbea, Rhode Island Democratic Secretary of State, was born and raised in Puerto Rico.
  • Jessica Gomez is a Republican businesswoman from Oregon who identifies as Latina.
  • Luján Grisham, the first Latina Democrat to be elected governor of any state, is running for re-election. 
  • At least one other gubernatorial candidate in Texas – Delilah Barrios – runs as part of the Green Party. She describes herself as Latina and Native American.

Stephanie Lopez, program director of LatinasRepresent, an initiative of the nonpartisan National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, told The 19th that many Latina candidates struggle with outdated assumptions about their electability.

“There are these classist, racist, and sexist ideas of who can and should be a leader in this country,” she said. “And women of color have the additional burden of tackling those three issues head-on. I think the media does play a significant role in the narratives that are created around these particular individuals.”

When in doubt, just look at history.

At least 1,000 men have been governors throughout U.S. history; only 45 women have been. New Mexico has elected the only two Latina governors, Lujan Grisham and Republican Susan Martinez. Republican Nikki Haley of South Carolina is the only other woman of color to be elected governor. There have never been more than nine female governors at any given time, and there have never been more than two women of color governing at the same time.

The time is now.

With information from The 19th.