The total number of Latinos in Congress rose by one, to 29, after the midterm elections, a new high, according to tallies kept by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Here are the newcomers who will be sworn in after the 114th Congress convenes Jan. 7:
Arizona (CD7), Ruben Gallego, Democrat - Soon after winning his midterm election, Gallego joined a Capitol Hill news conference held by backers of the president’s plan to take executive action on immigration. They decried the deportation of immigrant family members of veterans at the event that coupled two key issues for Gallego, immigration and veterans. Gallego is a Harvard graduate and military veteran who served in Iraq. He defeated three other primary candidates and three general election opponents to win the 2014 race to represent Arizona’s 7th congressional district, a House seat left open by the retirement of Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor. The former Marine led a fight to remove Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The son of Colombian and Mexian immigrant parents, he served in the Arizona Legislature, held positions in the state Democratic Party and worked as a political consultant.
California (CD-31), Pete Aguilar, Democrat – Pete Aguilar helped Democrats flip a House seat from red to blue in November and replaces retired GOP Rep. Gary Miller in California’s 31st congressional district. He was the youngest City Council member to serve on the Redlands, California City Council. He got his start in politics after college working for former California Gov. Gray Davis in Riverside. His family roots in California date back many generations with his family migrating to California via the railroad industry. Tackling poverty will be a key issue for Aguilar, whose district includes the Inland Empire, which leads the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas in poverty. He told NBC News that the high poverty in San Bernadino, second behind Detroit, was a key reason for his campaign.
California (CD-35), Norma Torres, Democrat – Norma Torres is a five-year veteran of the California state Senate. She was a 911 dispatcher and dispatcher/trainer with the Los Angeles Police Department. She also served in the state Assembly, was mayor of Pomona, California and was on the Pomona City Council. She was top finisher in a blanket primary and then won the general election to replace retiring Rep. Gloria Negrete-McLeod. Born in Guatemala, Torres’ parents brought her to the U.S. while civil war raged in the country. She has expressed understanding for the plight of the Central American families and children that arrived by the tens of thousands on the border this past summer. But she has been on the front lines of other issues, as well, including a push for bilingual dispatchers and preventing families from losing homes to foreclosure amid the recession.
Florida (CD-26), Carlos Curbelo, Republican – Carlos Curbelo pushed out Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat, from Florida’s Congressional District 26 House seat. A Miami-Dade County school board member, he also founded a political consulting firm, Capital Gains. He was supported in his campaign by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is looking more and more as though he’ll be making a 2016 presidential run. A son of Cuban exiles, Curbelo stood at odds during the campaign with Garcia’s support for relaxing trade restrictions with Cuba, so the upcoming fight over Obama’s recent Cuba initiative is sure to figure on his agenda. According to his school board bio, Curbelo founded Center Court Charities, a non-profit group that runs basketball leagues for students in the summer.
West Virginia (CD-2), Alex Mooney, Republican – Alex Mooney will have to become accustomed for a while to being referred to as the Hispanic congressman elected to the House from the least Hispanic state. His election showed that Republicans are in the fight for the Latino vote. The son of a mother born in Cuba and father with Irish heritage, his election helps grow the numbers of Cuban Americans in Congress. He was elected to represent West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district despite moving to the state relatively recently. He had served as Maryland’s Republican Party chairman until early 2013. Mooney also served in Maryland’s state legislature. He was endorsed in his race by Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who sought to be the GOP’s presidential pick in 2008. Mooney has been appointed to serve on the Natural Resources Committee and the Budget Committee.