Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses Topeka mayor for Congress

Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s (CHC) campaign arm, on Friday endorsed Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla (D) in her bid to become the first Latina to represent Kansas in the House of Representatives.

De La Isla is running for the seat currently held by embattled GOP Rep. Steve Watkins, who is fending off a primary challenge from Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner.

“Mayor Michelle De La Isla has dedicated her life to serving Kansas families, empowering her local community, and creating opportunities for Kansans to get ahead. She knows firsthand the daily struggles working families in Kansas face and has used her experience to lead and fight to create a better future for women and children in Topeka,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), chairman of Bold PAC, in a statement.

Bold PAC endorsees have in the past received the maximum donation of $5,000 per campaign — $10,000 between the primary and general election — and the support of a cache of CHC surrogates to aid in canvassing and fundraising.

The CHC campaign arm’s general goal is to increase Hispanic representation in Congress, but it often endorses non-Hispanic allies in key districts.

De La Isla’s Bold PAC endorsement comes amid an increased focus on the pivot district.

In 2018, Democrats spent more than $3 million on the seat, which is rated as a likely Republican hold by the Cook Political Report.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was ready to write off the district for 2020 but changed tack in January following De La Isla’s announcement.

“I think this is going to be one of the most competitive races in the nation and people are going to be looking at it,” De La Isla told The Hill in a recent interview.

Watkins’s troubles have also contributed to Democratic attention on what could be a safe Republican district, as reports of sometimes-erratic behavior and campaign funding irregularities have marred the Army veteran’s tenure in Congress.

The Federal Election Commission is investigating Watkins’s father for “straw man” donations to the 2018 congressional campaign, which would be a violation of federal law, Politico reported on Friday.

De La Isla’s bid follows a narrow win in 2017 to become Topeka’s first Latina mayor.

The New York City-born De La Isla was raised in Puerto Rico and overcame homelessness at an early age to become a diversity and inclusion expert with a Fortune 500 company, before turning to politics.

De La Isla said her campaign will focus on economic inclusiveness in a district that hasn’t reaped the benefits of national economic growth.

“I haven’t heard one person tell me they were excited when they received their income tax this year,” said De La Isla.

De La Isla said the district, which includes Topeka but also a large swath of rural land, has been struggling with underemployment, hospital closures and decaying infrastructure.

She also expressed confidence that Democrats can perform well in Kansas, as demonstrated by the 2018 election of Gov. Laura Kelly (D), by focusing on health care and an inclusive economic message.

“If you listen to what’s happening in the state and also in the nation I think people are tired of the divisiveness,” said De La Isla.

“When you are struggling to figure out how you are going to take care of your family, the things that are small, that don’t impact your family day to day, are going to start moving to the side,” she added.

Tags 2020 House elections Congress Kansas Steve Watkins

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