How Latinos and Latinas Did in the 2020 Senate and House Races

Nov 5, 2020
2:15 PM

Carmen Luján, mother of Democratic Senate candidate Ben Ray Luj´ån, poses for a photo in the back of a pickup truck outside a polling site on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, in Santa Fe, N.M. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

This is the first of a two-part series on Tuesday’s election. Part 2 will report on state election results.

Shortly before Election Day, the NALEO Educational Fund released a list of “Races to Watch.”

We’re watching and here’s what we know show so far.

While final data is still being gathered, experts say election results are expected to show that Latino voters turned out in record numbers nationwide. NALEO officials say the tally of Latinos who cast a ballot will likely top the organization’s earlier prediction that 14.6 million Latinos would turnout for the November election.

“Latino candidates are once again demonstrating an ability to compete all across the country,” NALEO CEO Arturo Vargas said in a statement. “COVID-19 served as a rallying cry for many Latino voters this year, and despite the significant challenges the pandemic has posed to securing safe elections, Latino voters still made plans to vote and delivered.”

U.S. Senate

The number of Latinos in the U.S. Senate is up to five now with the election of New Mexico’s Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, who pulled in 51% of the vote against Republican Mark Ronchetti’s 45.7%. The seat was held by Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, who retired and endorsed Luján.

Luján has served in the U.S. House since 2009. He is the highest ranking Latino in the House. He now moves to the Senate, joining Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with Democrats Bob Menendez in New Jersey and Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto.

Speaking at a press conference Lujan said, “People here in New Mexico spoke loud and clear,” said Luján, who’s father, the late Ben Luján, served as Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives.

U.S. House

  • In New York, Ritchie Torres, a Democrat and New York City councilman, routed Republican Patrick Delices in the 15th Congressional District. Torres attracted 88% of the vote in his Bronx congressional district. He replaces longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, who was elected to Congress in 1990. Torres is the first Afro-Latino and first openly gay Latino elected to Congress.
  • Incumbent Democratic Congressman Max Rose was running far behind in his bid for reelection by Nicole Malliotakis in New York’s District 11. Malliotakis has declared victory but Rose has so far refused to concede. “We have returned the 11th Congressional District to the hands of the Republican and Conservative Party thank you for your support and making this victory a reality,” said Tuesday. Malliotakis has served 10 years in the New York state assembly. She is a former candidate for mayor of New York. Malliotakis’ mother is a Cuban immigrant. Her father is Greek.
  • In a stunning upset in Florida, Republican Maria Elvira Salazar has edged out incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, 51.3% to 48.6%, in the 27th Congressional District. Salazar is a former TV journalist and the daughter of Cuban exiles. Shalala led the U.S. health department during the Clinton Administration. Despite garnering strong Cuban American support and the endorsement of President Trump, Salazar has said she opposes repealing the Affordable Care Act.
  • Also in Florida, Republican Carlos Gimenez in the 26th Congressional District, has defeated incumbent Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ousted an incumbent Republican in 2018. Gimenez is the mayor of Miami-Dade. Endorsed by Trump, he defeated Mucarsel-Powell 51.7% to 48.3%. In a press conference Tuesday night, Gimenez said, “I promise you I’ll be a much more effective congressperson and reach across the aisle. I won’t be as partisan as my predecessor.”
  • In Texas, Navy veteran and Republican Tony Gonzales won a seat in Congress in his race against Democrat and Filipina Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones. Gonzales drew 50% to Ortiz Jones’s 47% tally in San Antonio-area congressional District 23. Gonzales once served as a U.S. Department of Defense fellow in the office of Florida’s Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. Gonzales was endorsed by President Trump and the outgoing incumbent in District 23 Rep. Will Hurd.
  • In District 23 in North Texas, Candace Valenzuela, a Democrat and former school board member, was running just behind Republican and former mayor Beth Van Duyne, 48.8% to 47.5%, according to Thursday morning election results. If she wins, Valenzuela would be the first Afro-Latina elected to Congress.
  • In New Mexico, attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat, has defeated engineer Alexis Martinez Johnson, a Republican, in the state’s 3rd Congressional District. The seat is held by outgoing Congressman and now U.S. Senator-elect Luján. Leger Fernandez earned 58.5% of the vote over Martinez Johnson’s 41.5%. Leger Fernandez is a Stanford Law School graduate. Her mother taught bilingual education and her father, Ray Leger, served as a member in the New Mexico Senate. With Leger Fernandez’s election, every congressional representative from New Mexico is a woman of color.
  • In a surprise loss, Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small was defeated in her bid for reelection by Yvette Herrell, a Republican former state legislator who had tied herself closely to President Trump, 
  • In California’s 50th Congressional District, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Obama Administration housing official, was trailing former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican, by nearly 12,000 votes on Thursday morning. A Latino-Arab American, Campa-Naijar, ran for Congress against Duncan D. Hunter in 2018. Issa used to represent California’s 49th congressional district, but decided not to seek reelection in 2018.
  • In California’s 25th Congressional District, incumbent Republican Mike Garcia was running neck-and-neck against Democrat Christy Smith. With 86 % of the vote in, Smith held a slight lead over Garcia 50.3% to 49.7%. Smith is a member of the California Assembly. Garcia is a former military pilot. Garcia handily defeated Smith in a special election for the seat in May.
  • In California’s 53rd Congressional District, San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez, a Democrat and Mexican American, was easily defeated by fellow Democrat Sara Jacobs. In a Twitter post, Gomez said, “Tonight’s results do not define my commitment to building a more just society, I will continue to do the work along with you all.”
  • In Indiana, State Assemblymember Christina Hale, a Latina Democrat, lost in her run in the 5th Congressional District against Victoria Spartz, a Republican state senator. Had Hale won, she would have been the first Latina to represent Indiana in the U.S. House.
  • In Kansas, Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla, a Democrat, lost 55% to 41% in her contest against State Treasurer Jake LaTurner, a Republican, in the 2nd Congressional District.


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