Raúl Labrador, a model for Hispanic politicians reaching higher

Raúl Labrador, a model for Hispanic politicians reaching higher
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Hispanics — 58 million strong — are represented at all levels of American society, business, professions, street and homeless populations, criminal gangs, law enforcement, the military and a few in politics.

They are everywhere. They live in big cities, small towns and rural agricultural districts. Wherever they live, they provide manpower and energy that make economies hum and produce. They also own and man thousands of restaurants serving America’s favorite cuisine, Mexican food.

But comparatively few Hispanics are active in government and politics, especially high-level politics. Nearly 6,100 Hispanics hold elected public office in the U.S., according to 2014 data from NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. The 6,100 include municipal officials and school board members, and up to governors and U.S. senators.

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The Hispanic political base is nearly 28 million eligible voters. Other than in New Mexico, the most Hispanic state overall, however, there are no huge concentrations of Hispanic voters except for a congressional district here and there, mostly in Texas and California. Four Hispanics are currently U.S. senators — Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio heckled by protestors outside immigration detention facility Bill to protect work licenses of student loan debtors is welcome development Political figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer MORE (R-Fla.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHarry Reid undergoes surgery for pancreatic cancer Overnight Energy: House votes to advance Yucca Mountain nuke waste plan | EPA won't reverse danger findings for paint stripping chemical | County sues oil companies over climate How endangered GOP Sen. Dean Heller is seeking to hang on MORE (D-Nev.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington Senate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed MORE (R-Texas), and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer: Obama 'very amenable' to helping Senate Dems in midterms The Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo MORE (D-N.J.) — and 34 are in the House of Representatives. According to the NALEO 2014 data, at the local level, 2,322 Hispanics serve on boards of education and 1,766 serve as elected municipal officials. And, all told, there are 401 Hispanic state legislators throughout the country, according to the National Hispanic Caucus of Hispanic State Legislators.

Considering, though, that it wasn’t too long ago that Hispanic-American citizens were not permitted to vote or serve on juries in Texas (Hernandez v. Texas), for example, and that Puerto Ricans on the island can’t vote in federal elections (but can on the mainland), it is still an achievement that the governors of New Mexico (Susana Martinez) and Nevada (Brian Sandoval) are Mexican Americans.

In 1912, New Mexico entered the United States and shortly elected a Hispanic governor and, a few years later, U.S. senatorBefore that, California had elected Mexican-American state legislators, a Mexican-American state controller and lieutenant governor (who inherited the governorship), and the first Mexican-American congressman, Romualdo Pacheco, who went on to serve as a diplomatic envoy for the United States.

Of course, there have been some Hispanic presidentially appointed cabinet officers in the succession line for president — the highest-ranking (seventh in the succession line) of them having been President George W. Bush’s attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez. Nonetheless, until recent years, few Hispanics have ever jumped off the newspapers' front pages as a politician of real consequence, with the notable exceptions of Rubio, Sandoval, and Martinez.

So, a Puerto Rican-born, Mormon-raised and -educated (Brigham Young University) small-town immigration lawyer from Idaho — Idaho? — surprised the political world when he defeated a popular candidate for Congress in 2010 as a Tea Party-supported Republican.

Raúl L. Labrador, Esq., is his name.

He surprised the political world again in 2014 when he announced his candidacy for the Congress’ and the Republican Party’s Majority Leader of the House, a job vacated by primary-defeated Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election Scalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement MORE. California Congressman Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — House passes opioid bill | Planned Parenthood sues over teen pregnancy program | Azar to face Senate next week House still plans immigration vote next week despite Trump's tweet House passes bipartisan bill to fight opioid crisis MORE, perhaps the most popular congressman in the Republican-controlled House, won the job.

Labrador lost because there is no conservative cabal large enough to beat the congressional establishment in its own house. For 228 years, Congress has respected length of service and seniority more than any other institution in the Republic.

McCarthy is critical for immigration reform; more than 30 percent of his district is Latino and they helped to elect him to the California state legislature and to Congress.

Labrador has made contributions, too, by being an honest challenger of the establishment; he did not burn his political bridges when he lost the majority leader's race. In fact, he has a has a future outside Congress — possibly being elected as Idaho’s next governor in 2018. He is one of the many Republicans in the House who are retiring or running for higher office in the 2018 midterms.

The difference that sets Labrador aside is that he’s Hispanic, and a Republican Hispanic at that, with solid conservative credentials. He stands an excellent chance of being elected governor.

And, with the departure of Nevada's term-limited governor and fellow Republican Brian Sandoval, the role of America's role-model Hispanic male governor could be filled quite well from across the state line, in Idaho, by Raúl Labrador.  

Raoul Lowery Contreras is the author of “The Armenian Lobby & American Foreign Policy”and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade.” His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.