The DC Latino Caucus is working to encourage young people to get into politics and run for local office, according to Joe Barrios, the President of the DC Latino Caucus (DCLC).
While census data from 2019 shows that more than 11% of District residents identify as Latino, there is no Latino representation in the district's 13-member city council.
Several Latinos ran unsuccessfully for DC's at-large council seats in the November 3 general election, and a sixth ran to represent DC's Ward 2.
None of the candidates received a significant share of the votes, with the top performing Latina candidate, Office of Human Rights Director Monica Palacio, receiving approximately 13,200 votes. The winners of the two at-large council seats, for comparison's sake, received 135,878 and 77,485 votes.
In an interview with LPO, Barrios said that the DC Latino Caucus - which is affiliated to the Democrats - is focusing, in large part, on bringing in "the next generation of leaders."
"For the younger people, we've made a big, big push," he added. "We have several members of our board that are under the age of 30, so we're doing what is necessary to mentor the next generation of Latino leadership. I think they'll be able to step up to a DC Council run."
"We're also organizing to make sure that when the time comes, if we have the right candidate, we're going to have the people necessary on the ground to knock on doors and help those candidates get elected."
Additionally, Barrios said that the DCLC is "building bridges" and relationships with other organizations such as DC for Democracy.
"We're building those bridges so that we can hopefully work with our allies to make sure we can realize that dream of having a DC Council member," he added. "Organization of a community doesn't happen in a few months' time. It takes months and years of dedicated effort. Longer term, we're going to continue building that infrastructure so that we don't get just one Latino elected, but multiple Latinos elected in the future, whether that's to the DC council or a future state assembly after we obtain statehood."
Looking to the future, Barrios also said that hopes that the foreign-born segments of the district's wider Latino population will eventually be able to have some way of having their voice heard in local politics.
By some estimates, approximately 40% of the city's total Latino population is foreign-born and not US citizens.
"The particular nature of our community is the percentage that is eligible to vote, and of those, which of them are actually voter registered. Those are the questions we're trying to answer as we get more knowledge and information about the community," Barrios added. "We do have a segment of the population that are permanent residents and may to be able to vote. There is a segment of our population that is undocumented. Just because they're undocumented doesn't mean they shouldn't have a political voice. But in our current system, they're not counted as voters."
In June, DC Council member Brianne K. Nadeu introduced a bill that would expand the term "qualified elector" to include permanent residents for purposes of local elections.
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