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Record Number of Latino Candidates on Local D.C. Ballot

A record number of Latinos are running for office in Washington D.C. Pedro Rubio is campaigning  for D.C. Council At Large and Franklin Garcia for U.S. Representative. Seven Latinos are on the ballot for D.C. Democratic State Committee. Among the contenders are multicultural education expert Julia Lara; Edgardo Guerrero, the first openly gay Latino candidate on a D.C. ballot; and Roxana Olivas, Director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs.

Latinos in Washington D.C. make up about 10% percent of the population. The District has the highest concentration of Salvadorans as a percentage of its overall Latino population. Many Salvadorans emigrated from their war torn home country in the 1980s and saw the nation’s capital as a representation of the “American Dream”.

This “Dream” is the reason D.C. Council At Large candidate Pedro Rubio is running.  He prides himself on being the son of hard working Salvadoran immigrants who established a home in Washington D.C.  Rubio attended D.C. Public Schools and graduated from American University with a B.A. in Business Finance. “Regardless of who you are, where you come from, what your beliefs are, or how much money you make. As Council-member, I want to ensure D.C. is a place you call home. I want to ensure all communities are represented and heard,” said Pedro Rubio. A D.C. Council-member is responsible for considering legislation related to specific policy matters like economic development and education. Currently Rubio is resident of Ward 4, one of the most diverse sectors in the city, and is actively involved in various community efforts which include mentoring at-risk youth through the District Court. With the campaign slogan, “Representing Everyone”, Pedro Rubio is the first Salvadoran-American born in Washington D.C. to run for District Council.

The District’s U.S. Representative’s role is largely dedicated to obtaining statehood for the City.  “Congressional representation has taken too long and we need the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to admit the District of Columbia as a state. It is the only way to honor full democracy in the nation’s capital,” said  Dominican-American Franklin Garcia.  He has been involved with D.C. statehood efforts for more than 15 years through active participation in various statehood alliances in the city.  Franklin Garcia is the Corresponding Secretary for the D.C. Democratic Party and is on the Executive Committee of the Ward 5 Democrats.

The D.C. Democratic State Committee is responsible for promoting the goals and mission of the National Democratic Party which includes educating voters and increasing electoral participation. Based on records from U.S. presidential elections, the general turnout rate of eligible Latino voters has historically lagged behind other voting groups. Increasing civic engagement and participation motivated Julia Lara, Denise Lopez, Mario Cristaldo, Silvia, Martinez, Edgardo Guerrero, and Roxana Olivas to run for a position in the District’s Democratic State Committee.

Julia Lara is running for Committeewoman representing Ward 4. Lara has devoted her professional career to the academic improvement of D.C. Public School students of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. Her primary focus has been with English-Language learning students.

Edgardo Guerrero, is a long time resident of the District, the first openly gay Latino on a D.C. local ballot, and board member of the D.C. Latino Caucus, an organization that promotes Latino involvement in political elections. “ We can educate the community but you also have to lead by example. Latinos can run in elections,” said Guerrero.

Mexican-American Roxana Olivas, has been very involved in Latino Democratic politics as co-founder of Latinas United for Obama. She also presently serves as Director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, an agency that works with community organizations and the D.C. government to incorporate Latinos to the City’s initiatives.  Olivas ensures that the D.C. mayor’s initiatives aimed at the vision of the District of Columbia as “One City” takes the Latino population into account.

“The representation of Latinos in this year’s local elections is historical for the District of Columbia,” said Franklin Garcia, Founder of the D.C. Latino Caucus and candidate for U.S. Representative.  These Latino candidates participation and potential election supports the District of Columbia “One City” mission, which recognizes that regardless of differences such as race, sexual orientation, gender, and ward, the voices of all District residents count and are united by a shared desire to make the city better.

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About Karen Vanegas

Writer Karen Vanegas grew up in the District of Columbia and graduated from Mount Holyoke College. She majored in International Relations with a focus in Economic Development. Her interest for economics sparked while interning for The World Bank.  Karen worked for the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru and the D.C. Mayor’s Office. She has collaborated with the Hispanic College Fund in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, California. Karen mentors first-generation college students. She is a first-generation college graduate. Karen Vanegas is member of the Advisory Board for the D.C. Latino Caucus and a Policy Fellow for the YWCA, the largest women's advocacy association in the United States. You can contact her at vanegas.karen@gmail.com and follow her on twitter @ DCKarenV
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