Latina Candidates in 2020


The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) has tracked women’s political candidacies for three decades. Since 2004, CAWP has collected women candidates’ racial identification, relying primarily on candidate self-identification. This year, we are reporting this data pre-election and in greater depth than we have before, providing summary information on the increasing diversity among women candidates in addition to specific analyses of Asian or Pacific Islander (API), Black, Middle Eastern or North African (MENA), Latina, and Native American women running for the U.S. Congress and statewide executive offices.

The data below include all major-party women candidates who identify as Latina alone or Latina in combination with other races; multiracial women will be included in counts and analyses for each group with which they identify. There remain a small number of candidates in CAWP’s database for whom we were unable to determine racial identification. Those women are included here to calculate percentages of all women candidates and are alluded to when we say “at least” before reported counts of Latinas.

A record number of Latinas are running for congressional office in 2020.

At least 75 (41D, 34R) Latinas are congressional candidates in 2020, including 72 (39D, 33R) Latina candidates for the U.S. House and 3 (2D, 1R) Latina candidates for the U.S. Senate. These numbers include all Latina filed candidates, including those who may have already lost their primary elections. They do not include candidates for non-voting offices in the U.S. House. This is the largest number of Latinas who have run for the House or Senate, overall and in both parties, in a single election year.

A record number of Latinas are already nominees for the U.S. House in 2020 with primaries still to be held in 14 states.

With primaries to be held in 14 more states, 27 (17D, 10R) Latinas have already won major-party nominations for the U.S. House. This number of Latina House nominees is already seven more than in 2018, when 20 (16D, 4R) Latinas were House nominees.

As of August 1st, Latinas are no longer in the running for U.S. Senate nominations in 2020. This is a site of persistent underrepresentation for Latinas. In 2017, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) became the first and remains the only Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate. Three Latinas were unsuccessful in U.S. Senate primary elections in 2020.

The percentage of all women running for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate who are Latinas is not a record high this year overall or for women within either major party.

Women candidates who identify as Latina alone or in combination with other race(s) are at least 12.3% of all women running for the U.S. House in 2020. Latinas are at least 11% of Democratic and 14.5% of Republican women House candidates, which are percentages similar to recent cycles.

Latinas are 5% (3 of 60) of all women candidates for the U.S. Senate this year. They are 5.4% (2 of 37 of Democratic women Senate candidates and 4.3% (1 of 23) of Republican women Senate candidates, which are not record highs.

These levels of representation are important indicators of the racial diversity among women candidates, but even more telling will be the racial diversity among women congressional nominees and winners in 2020.

Latinas remain underrepresented in the full candidate pools for U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

Recent U.S. Census estimates note that women who identify as Hispanic alone or in combination with other races represent about 9.1% of the U.S. population. In 2020, women in this group are 3.6% of all candidates for the U.S. House. Latinas are slightly better represented among Democratic (4.2%) than Republican (3.1%) House candidates this year.

There are opportunities for Latinas to make history down-ballot this year.

In 2018, five new Latinas were elected to the U.S. House, including two – Representatives Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) – who were the first Latinas to represent Texas in Congress. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) defeated a Democratic incumbent to become one of the youngest women to ever serve in the U.S. House. Two of these congresswomen – Representatives Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM) and Debbie Murcarsel Powell (D-FL) – were among the women members who flipped House seats from Republican to Democrat in 2018; both will again face competitive elections this fall.

Two other Latina candidates made history in election 2018. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) became the first Democratic woman of color governor in the U.S. and the first Democratic woman governor of New Mexico. Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez (R-IL) became the first Latina elected statewide in Florida.

The 2020 election offers more opportunities for Latinas to make history. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) won the Democratic nomination for the open seat in New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district. Cook Political Report currently rates this contest in her favor (“Solid Democratic”). Three more non-incumbent Latina nominees are running in contests deemed toss-ups by Cook Political Report. Christina Hale (D-IN) would become the first Latina to represent Indiana in Congress if successful in the open-seat contest in Indiana’s 5th congressional district. Candace Valenzuela (D-TX), the Democratic nominee in Texas’ 24th congressional district, has the potential to become the first Afro-Latina in Congress. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) – who identifies as Latina and white – would become the first Republican woman of color to represent New York in Congress if she is successful in challenging incumbent Representative Max Rose (D-NY) in New York’s 11th congressional district.

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez (D-CA) is facing another Democratic woman in the open-seat general election contest to replace Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) in California’s 53rd congressional district. Mayor Michelle De La Isla – who identifies as Latina, Black, and white – is the Democratic nominee in Kansas’ 2nd congressional district. Her opponent defeated incumbent Representative Steve Watkins (R) to create an open-seat general election contest in a district already deemed competitive in November.

Latinas are already U.S. House nominees in four of 43 states – Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, and  Kansas – that have never sent a Latina to Congress. Latinas are also running in forthcoming primary contests or runoff elections in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Tennessee – all states that have never sent a Latina to Congress.

CAWP Staff