In this era of politics, being a Latina in Congress makes it much more likely that a candidate is left-leaning in her political positions. But even with only 12 Latinas serving as voting members within the House and Senate, there are a handful who hold more moderate or even conservative points of view.
While the more progressive members of Congress tend to get more coverage in the media — which is to be expected, considering who is leading or instigating much of the nation’s dialogue on humanitarian and divisive issues — it’s critical to understand where each and every candidate is coming from this Hispanic Heritage Month, even if you might disagree with some of their beliefs, approaches, or voting records.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
Even though she’s just midway through her first term as a Nevada Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto has already made quite an impression among her peers. A third-generation Mexican-American, Cortez Masto is the first Latina senator to have ever held office. Last winter, she was also appointed the first Latina chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Committee, a position that entrusts her with national efforts toward getting Democrats voted into office after her home state successfully was able to mobilize Latino voters for the last election.
Cortez Masto’s political strategy is more aligned with those held by centrist Democrats, so her name doesn’t have the same, exciting ring of other Congressional newcomers. But her approach toward the 2020 election is sound. “One thing I’ve learned here is that unless you control the agenda and you’re in the majority, you can’t focus on or fight for or at least bring to the floor of the Senate the issues that you care about,” she explained to the Nevada Current earlier this year. “I think we need to get back to a day where we are actually in regular order, bringing legislation forward, debating it, talking about it, and moving it forward. And with Democrats in control, I think that’s possible and I think we can do that.”
Rep. Xochitl Torres Small
New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District covers the southern swath of the state, bordered on the south by Mexico, a swing district that Xochitl Torres Small flipped to blue during the 2018 midterm elections. Running as a moderate Democrat, she won her seat in a very tight race that hinged upon votes cast through absentee ballots, appealing to the rural values of her constituency. In doing so, she made history by becoming the first Latina to have ever held the district.
Torres Small, a third-generation Mexican-American, has expressed her willingness to compromise on border security legislation rather than advocating for more open borders. “[People] are much more willing to recognize the complexity of the challenges we face (at the border), because we see all sides of it,” she told Las Cruces Sun News. Shortly after she was inaugurated into office, rather than pushing back against talk of the border wall, she openly discussed the merits of “carefully placed” borders, a position that resonates with ranchers along the southern US border.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler
Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler is the lone Republican Latina currently serving in Congress, representing southwestern Washington’s working-class 3rd Congressional District. She has been in office since 2011.
Affordable healthcare has been one of Rep. Herrera Beutler’s signature issues, having lost her mother to lung cancer and having a daughter diagnosed with Potter’s syndrome. Speaking about her mother, she shared in a campaign ad last year, “The thing that I remember about it is that she was afraid to see a doctor. She knew how expensive it could be and how hard it would be on the family,” she said, insisting that her political positions are focused on making healthcare affordable to everybody.
While she breaks with her Democratic peers as to how to achieve this goal — she opposed the Affordable Care Act — she has also crossed over party lines for bills that support better maternity care through increased funding for midwife training as well as increased prenatal screenings.