Washington - New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres has virtually secured his election in Congress to represent the 15th District South Bronx, in the race to replace José Serrano.
Next January, Torres would join Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, representatives for New York districts, and Darren Soto (Florida), also favorite to be reelected to the U.S. House
Two other Puerto Ricans are seeking a seat in the House for the first time: Michelle de la Isla, a Kansas Democrat; and Leo Valentín, a Central Florida Republican.
But, as a candidate in a mostly Democratic district, no one doubts Torres will be the one elected. Serrano would win with more than 90 percent of the votes.
Torres was two years old when Serrano, who announced his retirement after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, was elected to the House in March 1990. “I represent a new generation of leadership. Serrano’s transition to me is a genuine torch relay,” said Torres, who will be the first openly gay Latino in U.S. Congress, where he said he will join both the Hispanic and Black Caucuses.
In Congress, he could team up with Soto as the two Puerto Ricans in the Democratic caucus proposing statehood for Puerto Rico, a task that Serrano led in the past few years.
Velázquez and Ocasio Cortez support legislation seeking to link Congress and a Status Convention the federal government decides to convene.
“If Puerto Rico votes for statehood, my position is that Congress must act on what the people decided,” said Torres, who will also advocate for exempting the island from federal cabotage regulations and equity in health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
Torres has also favored repealing PROMESA and granting Puerto Rico a mechanism to restructure its public debt without a board overseeing its fiscal affairs.
In late September, Torres met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who seeks to continue as House Speaker in January.
“We talked about the needs of my district,” he said, stressing that he will represent the poorest district in the United States - with 25 percent unemployment, “comparable to the (1930) Great Depression” - where voters wait for an agreement on a new economic stimulus bill to address the coronavirus emergency.
Torres will also seek to be part of the Financial Services and Natural Resources committees, this last one with primary jurisdiction over Puerto Rico’s affairs. He indicated that he has spoken with his colleagues Velázquez, Ocasio Cortez, and Soto. “It will be an honor to work with them. Nydia, in particular, is an icon,” Torres said.
The other two new candidates
Democratic candidate De la Isla, and mayor of Topeka, capital of Kansas seeks the seat for her state’s 2nd district. She faces Republican Jake La Turner, State Treasurer.
Valentín, a physician, seeks the position currently held by Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th District.
Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced issued a statement yesterday announcing her support for Valentín.
“While others claim to know our community, Leo has lived our reality,” said Gov. Vázquez Garced.