BOLD PAC aims to elect more Latinas to the House and Senate
Democratic political action committee seeks to counter Republican push to win Latina voters in 2024
A record number of Latinas won seats in the 118th Congress, but a Democratic political action committee is hoping to reach a new milestone in 2024.
Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, chairwoman of BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said her priority is defending incumbents and “making sure that Latino, and especially Latina, candidates are encouraged to run for office nationwide and have the resources they need to win.”
Latina voters will play a key role nationwide in 2024, Sánchez said in a statement, “especially in states like California, Pennsylvania, and Arizona that will be integral in retaking the Democratic Majority in the House, and will help determine whether Democrats defend the White House and the Senate.”
There are currently 19 Latinas in the House, 13 Democrats and six Republicans. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. is the only Latina senator.
Sánchez, a Democrat from California who has been in Congress since 2003, is the first woman to lead BOLD PAC. All of the group’s top positions are now held by women.
“We’re a woman-led organization and we’re very proud of that,’’ said Executive Director Victoria McGroary. “Latinas showed us just how important they are to the Democratic coalition, how energized they are to knock doors, to mobilize their communities, particularly in a cycle where choice was such a huge issue.”
In 2022, BOLD PAC helped elect four Latina freshmen: Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who beat a Trump-endorsed candidate in a Washington state district that had been held by the GOP since 2011; Yadira Caraveo of Colorado; Delia Ramirez of Illinois and Andrea Salinas of Oregon. Caraveo, Ramirez and Salinas are among the first Latinas elected from their respective states.
Economic issues as well as access to abortion will be the PAC’s focus this cycle, McGroary said. The group did not release its fundraising targets.
“Women as we all know play such a crucial role in the economic well-being of their families,’’ McGroary said. "That is doubly true in Latino families, where women [are responsible for] making sure all the pieces are moving together and everything that needs getting done is getting done.’’
Democrats aren’t the only ones making a push to reach Latina voters: Republicans leaned heavily on immigration issues in key House races in South Texas in the 2022 midterms, though the results were mixed.
Three Republican Latina candidates—Irene Armendariz-Jackson, Cassy Garcia and former Rep. Mayra Flores — lost to Democrats in border districts. But Republican Rep. Monica De La Cruz flipped a redrawn district in Texas and two other Latinas, Reps. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida and Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, also won. (Chavez-DeRemer and Salinas are the first Latinas elected from Oregon.)
The first woman was sworn in as a member of Congress in 1917, but the first Latina wasn’t elected 1989, when Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban refugee from South Florida, won the first of her 15 terms.
"Between 2013 and 2018, Latina representation was flat at nine,’’ said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “In the last few cycles, we've started to see that number going up but still not where it could be and should be in terms of representation."
Immigration is important to Latina voters, but it isn’t the only issue they’re focused on, Walsh said. "One of the traps that one could fall into is to assume that the issue Latina candidates and voters care about most is immigration,’’ she said. “And while it clearly has resonance, particularly with Latinas in border communities, reproductive health issues are rising in relevance to women overall, and with Latinas in particular."
BOLD PAC plans to continue an effort launched during the run-up to last year’s midterms to combat disinformation. One of the false narratives the group sought to address was a belief, promoted on social media, that women who sought abortions would place their immigration status in jeopardy.
"There is no question that abortion will be on the ballot again," Sánchez said. "That’s why we will ramp up our efforts to combat disinformation on abortion targeting Latinas and other women of color who already face obstacles to having safe and affordable reproductive healthcare services."