At least four Latino Congress members won’t return this year as the 113th Congress convenes with a record number of Latino members.
Among the Latino Congress members who won’t be returning include U.S. representatives Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas), Joe Baca (D-Calif.), Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R-Texas), and David Rivera (R-Fla.).
Charlie Gonzalez’s stepping down marks the end of an era
Gonzalez announced November 2011 that he would not seek re-election and would step down after serving in Texas’ 20th Congressional District for 14 years. The 67-year-old’s decision not to run for an eighth term meant that for the first time in 50 years, the San Antonio ballots would not include a member of the Gonzalez family running for Congress.
Gonzalez’s father, Henry B. Gonzalez, was first elected to serve in Congress in 1961. Henry went on to serve for 37 years before stepping down in 1999 due to health issues. He passed away in 2000 at age 84.
Gonzalez stepped into his father’s shoes in 1999 and served in Congress ever since before deciding to step down. He also worked his way through the ranks of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus until being elected as its chairman in 2011.
Gonzalez told VOXXI last November that his decision to step down marks the end of an era. Now, a new face rises to take the congressional seat that the Gonzalez family has held on to for more than 50 years. Joaquin Castro, the twin brother of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, will succeed Gonzalez.
Joe Baca ousted after serving six terms
Gonzalez is one of the two veteran Latino Congress members who are leaving this year. The second one is Joe Baca (D-Calif.). The 65-year-old served six terms before losing his seat last November to Democratic State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod.
During the race, Baca picked up major endorsements and raised more campaign funds than Negrete McLeon. However he struggled to gain support from female voters because of past issues he had with women members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In 2007, the women accused him of making sexist remarks.
It is also believed that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s spending of $2.5 million to prevent Baca from being re-elected may have contributed to Negrete McLeon’s victory. Bloomberg donated the funds because he disapproved of Baca’s support for pro-gun rights.
Though the race didn’t get much national attention like other congressional races, it was closely-watched in California. Part of it was because many were surprised to see Baca, a longtime congressman, being ousted by a member of his own Democrat.
Francisco “Quico” Canseco unseated after serving one term
Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R-Texas) is also among the Latino Congress members who won’t be returning. Canseco was defeated by Texas State Rep. Pete Gallego (D) during last year’s elections. The 63-year-old only served one term.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) described the race between Canseco and Gallego as “one of the most competitive Congressional races in the nation.” Gallego won with just under 52 percent of the vote while Conseco picked up about 44 percent of the vote.
On election night, Gallego said the support he received from border counties, including El Paso County where there is a large population of Latinos, helped him win. Also contributing to Gallego’s win is the fact that a majority of the newly added residents to the district – after redistricting – voted in his favor.
David Rivera defeated after being tainted by controversy
Perhaps one of the most competitive congressional races involving Latino candidates was the race in Florida between Republican incumbent congressman David Rivera and Democrat Joe Garcia, according to NALEO.
Rivera, 47, served for one term before being defeated last November by Garcia, who formerly served as Executive Director of the Cuban American National Foundation and as a member of the Obama Administration. Garcia won by a 54 percent to 43 percent margin.
In 2010, Rivera handedly defeated Garcia. But two years later, Rivera was tainted by controversy and couldn’t hold on to his seat. Last October, the Florida Ethics Commission found that Rivera had violated 11 ethics violations because he failed to fully disclose his finances from 2005 to 2009. Rivera served in the Florida House of Representatives during those four years.