Hispanic Caucus poised to expand ranks after strong recruiting

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is poised to bolster its ranks on Election Day. 

The 20-member Democratic caucus is losing three lawmakers to retirement and/or primary defeats. But the CHC might pick up as many as 10 new members, which would bolster the long-shot chances that Democrats will win back the House. 

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Sources close to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee note that it made recruiting strong Latino candidates a priority this election cycle. 

Democratic insiders tracking the races say they are confident the CHC will gain at least five freshmen in 2013 with candidates Tony Cardenas (Calif.), Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.), Juan Vargas (Calif.), Filemon Vela (Texas) and Joe GarciaJoe GarciaFlorida Dems hosting fundraiser for GOP lawmaker Freshman Curbelo wins reelection in Fla. LGBT Republican groups campaigning for Curbelo in Fla. MORE (Fla.). Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.), who is Hispanic, is running against Garcia in a race that The Hill has deemed leans Republican.

Meanwhile, Texas state Rep. Joaquin Castro is a shoo-in for the San Antonio-based seat vacated by outgoing CHC Chairman Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas). Castro’s twin brother, Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention this summer. 

Democratic political operatives are eyeing pickups with strong challengers in a handful of districts in California, Texas and Nevada. 

In an interview with The Hill, Gonzalez said that his successor at the helm of the CHC will be busy in the new Congress because the caucus will be significantly larger.

The CHC’s effort to grow its ranks comes as President Obama enjoys a large lead over Republican nominee Mitt Romney among Hispanics. An aide to Romney told The Hill earlier this year that the campaign is aiming to attract 38 percent of the Hispanic vote. But various polls show that Romney is running at least 10 points behind that goal. 

According to the latest public Federal Election Commission filings, released on June 30, the CHC’s political action committee has contributed $152,000 to competitive candidates and incumbents. The PAC had more than $481,302 cash on hand at that time.

The PAC has contributed to many Democratic Hispanic challengers, including Dr. Raul Ruiz, who is running against Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.); former astronaut Jose Hernandez, who is locked in a battle against Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.); John Oceguera, who is taking on Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.); and former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, running for the open Arizona Senate seat against Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCorker pressed as reelection challenges mount -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground Senate votes down Paul's bid to revoke war authorizations MORE (R). 

Democrats have also directed resources to one of the fiercest battles for a House seat in the country, between Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R-Texas) and his Hispanic challenger, Pete GallegoPete P. GallegoObamaCare repeal vote: 15 GOP lawmakers to watch Vulnerable Texas GOP lawmaker survives rematch 5 races for tech to watch MORE (D). 

Gallego, a member of the Texas Legislature, is running neck and neck with Canseco, battling for votes in the heavily Hispanic San Antonio-based district. Last week, they went toe to toe in a Spanish-language debate. 

Both parties this year have touted their Hispanic leaders.

Hispanic Republicans in Congress, including Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE, Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, Florida Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, are surrogates for Romney. Rubio introduced Romney at the Republican convention in Tampa. 

The Senate GOP caucus next year is expected to pick up a new Hispanic lawmaker in Tea Party favorite Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention MORE, who is heavily favored to defeat Democrat Paul Sadler in Texas.

House Republicans have a dozen Hispanic candidates running for office this cycle, but a majority of them are taking on Democratic incumbents who are favored to win reelection. 

GOP Hispanic House hopeful David Valadao, however, is running for a new seat in California, and has a good chance at winning his election, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. 

Republican Hispanic California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado is running a competitive race against Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) in their contest to represent the Santa Barbara-based district. 

Even though Hispanic GOP members of the House once belonged to the CHC, they abandoned the Democratic organization years ago over policy differences.

The CHC’s PAC has donated to at least nine incumbents, including Reps. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Ruben HinojosaRuben HinojosaTurning the tables to tackle poverty and homelessness in rural America Ethics: Lawmakers didn’t ‘knowingly’ break rules with Azerbaijan gifts Dems heap praise on Pelosi for trade moves MORE (D-Texas), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and Del. Gregorio Sablan (I-Northern Mariana Islands).

Reyes lost his primary to former El Paso City Councilman Beto O’Rourke, who is not Hispanic. 

The PAC also contributed to Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Poll finds little support for Menendez reelection Judge tells Menendez lawyer to 'shut up' MORE (D-N.J.), who is favored to win reelection.