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Latinos' Presence in State Capitols Grows, Expands With Election

The number of Latinos in state legislatures around the country increased to 321 with the most additions in California and additions in states like Georgia and West Virginia.
The California 2016 Christmas Tree is placed in front of the state Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Voters elected more Latinos to state legislatures around the country and California had the biggest increase in Latinos in its lower chamber, gaining four Latino representatives. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Voters increased Hispanic representation in several state legislatures from 307 seats to 321 this past election, according to an analysis by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

"A strong showing from Latino voters in Arizona, California and Florida helped Latinos make historic gains in state upper and lower houses this year," NALEO executive director Arturo Vargas said in a release.

The number of Latino Democrats holding seats in the lower chamber of state legislatures is quadruple those held by Latino Republicans. Hispanic Democrats had a net gain of 19 seats in states' lower chambers to raise the party's total from 175 to 194. Latino Republicans had a net loss of nine seats, shrinking their total from 59 seats to 50.

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The total Latinos from both parties serving in lower chambers rises from 234 to 244. California saw the biggest gain in Latinos in the lower chamber, adding four Latino representatives. Other states with net gains were Arizona, two; Colorado, two; Florida, two; Texas, two; Georgia, one; Oklahoma, one; Rhode Island, one and West Virginia, one.

But in Kansas, two Latinos lost their House seats and the following states lost one Latino representative each: Alaska, Illinois, New Mexico and New York.

Arizona has the greatest increase in Latinos elected to state senate seats. Arizonians elected three Latinos — two Democrat and one Republican — to the state senate. Latinos were also elected to state senates in Florida, Illinois, Nebraska and West Virginia. Three states lost a Latino in the state senate: Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.

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“Latino candidates successfully ran for state legislative office in 33 states, winning bids in areas with both Latino population centers and without," Vargas said. "There is no such thing as a Latino or non-Latino designated district anymore, with Latinos once again demonstrating the ability and expertise needed to build support from a broad coalition of Americans in Election 2016.”

Gains also were made at the national level.

The U.S. House of Representatives saw an increase in its Hispanic members. While 27 Latino incumbent representatives kept their seats, seven new Latinos, all Democrats, joined the House: Salud Carbajal, Nanette Diaz Barragan and Lou Correa all of California, Darren Soto of Florida, Ruben Kihuen of Nevada, Adriano Espaillat of New York and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas.

Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton Campaigns In Las Vegas
Former Nevada Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto speaks during a campaign rally October 12, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., became the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate. She'll join three incumbent Latino senators: Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

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