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New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres made history on Tuesday night, becoming the first openly gay Afro-Latino elected to Congress.
Torres, who will represent the Bronx-based 15th Congressional District, became a “giant-slayer” of sorts in the Democratic primary earlier this year. He defeated an anti-LGBTQ, pro-Trump Democrat, Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who was a longtime fixture of Bronx politics and whose son is the Bronx Borough President. He also defeated State Assemblyman Michael Blake, who was backed by the Congressional Black Caucus.
Torres, a self-described progressive, told Metro Weekly in an interview in September that he will prioritize issues important to working-class people in Congress, which will mean providing relief for individuals and families affected by COVID-19, as well as providing federal funding for state and local governments that are trying to provide public services to people impacted by the pandemic.
He also plans to push for increased government spending to assist working-people, shoring up the social safety net, creating new job opportunities, especially in the arena of green jobs, and other progressive policy positions.
“When I think about all the struggles affecting the poorest parts of our country, whether it be poverty or inequality, food insecurity or housing, these are not only abstractions that I studied intensely as a policy, these are struggles that I’ve lived in my own life,” Torres said. “For me, policy is personal.”
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which backed Torres, praised his historic candidacy.
“Most would have thought New York City’s first LGBTQ member of Congress would be from Chelsea or Greenwich Village or Hell’s Kitchen, but the Bronx beat them to it,” Parker said in a statement. “As our nation attempts to tackle systemic racism, police reform and healthcare disparities, Ritchie’s lived experience as an out LGBTQ Afro-Latinx man will bring an essential perspective to Capitol Hill. Ritchie’s election gives hope at a time when many Americans desperately need it. He will become a role model for LGBTQ youth in the Bronx and beyond.”
Torres will join another history-making New Yorker in Congress, after Mondaire Jones won his race for New York’s 17th Congressional District, becoming the first openly gay Black person elected to Congress.
“Mondaire and Ritchie have shattered a rainbow ceiling and will bring unique perspectives based on lived experiences never before represented in the U.S. Congress,” Parker said. “As our nation grapples with racism, police brutality and a pandemic that disproportionally affects people of color and LGBTQ people, these are the voices that can pull us from the brink and toward a more united and fair society.”
She added: “Their elections will end any doubts about the electability of Black LGBTQ men to our nation’s highest legislative body. It will also inspire more young LGBTQ leaders and leaders of color to run and serve.”
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