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Ritchie Torres becomes first gay Afro Latino elected to Congress

Torres, a Democrat, was elected to represent New York's 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Image: Ritchie Torres, the Democratic nominee for New York's 15th Congressional District
Ritchie Torres, the Democratic nominee for New York's 15th Congressional District, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York.Adam Hunger / AP

Ritchie Torres has won his House race for New York’s 15th Congressional District, making him the first gay Afro Latino person elected to Congress.

Torres was all but certain to win in his deep-blue House district. He defeated Republican Patrick Delices, a former professor of Caribbean studies at Hunter College.

He fills a seat left by Rep. Jose Serrano, a 16-term Democrat who said last year that he would not run for re-election.

"Tonight we made history," Torres tweeted Tuesday night, calling it "the honor of a lifetime to represent a borough filled with essential workers who risked their lives so that New York City could live" during the pandemic.

Torres could be joined by Mondaire Jones, who's currently ahead in his race for New York's 17th Congressional District, as the first gay Black members of Congress.

Torres, 32, a Bronx native, is the youngest member of the New York City Council, where he has advocated for better public housing and programs to address racially concentrated poverty. (His congressional district is the poorest in the country.)

He has been an ardent proponent of police reform, calling for increased accountability and independent oversight, saying that without them, "there's never going to be an end to police brutality."

“Police departments across the country cannot be trusted to police themselves,” Torres told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier this year. “There has to be an independent system for investigating, punishing and, if necessary, prosecuting police misconduct.”

In September, he called for the resignation of Ed Mullins, president of the New York Police Department’s Sergeants Benevolent Association, after Mullins tweeted Torres was a “first class whore.”

"Calling an openly LGBTQ Afro-Latino a ‘first-class whore.’ There is NOTHING benevolent about the bigotry of the @SBANYPD,” Torres tweeted in response. “Ed Mullins must resign.”

Mullins insisted his now-deleted comment was in reference to Torres’ “dangerous policies and worldview,” not his sexuality.

The out politician has also squared off against fellow City Council member Ruben Diaz Sr., his opponent in the primary.

Diaz, 77, a Pentecostal minister, has referred to gay people as “cursed” and voted against legalizing same-sex marriage in 2009 and 2011 as a member of the New York State Senate. Last year, Diaz described the New York City Council, which has five openly LGBTQ members, as being "controlled by the homosexual community.”

After the comment, Torres worked with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also gay, to strip Diaz of committee positions.

Torres is the first openly gay elected official from the Bronx and blames Diaz for fostering a “homophobic culture” in the borough.

“It’s personal,” Torres told NBC News last year. “He made the experience of running for public office more terrifying for me.”

A record 26 openly gay candidates for the House and Senate were on the ballot Tuesday, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which advocates for and trains out elected representatives. Many of those races have not yet been called.

“Most would have thought New York City’s first LGBTQ member of Congress would be from Chelsea or Greenwich Village or Hell’s Kitchen,” Victory Fund President Annise Parker said in a statement, “but the Bronx beat them to it.”

Torres’ victory, Parker added, “gives hope at a time when many Americans desperately need it.”

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