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House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members

House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members
© Getty Images/Greg Nash/Courtesy of Tony Gonzales for Congress

The House Republican Conference will add four new Hispanic members to its ranks come January, a reflection of the party’s appeal to Latinos in Florida and Texas.

The Congressional Hispanic Conference — the grouping of Hispanic Republicans, as opposed to the nominally bipartisan but functionally Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) — is set to welcome Reps.-elect Carlos Gimenez (Fla.), Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.), Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.) and Tony Gonzales (Texas).

Gimenez, Salazar and Malliotakis are Cuban Americans, Gonzales is Mexican American.

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All four won close races against Democrats — incumbents in the case of Gimenez, Salazar and Malliotakis — who were favored to win their elections.

The Florida and Texas districts are majority Hispanic; Malliotakis’s Staten Island district is nearly a fifth Hispanic.

“There’s no doubt we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the representation of minorities, including Hispanics, among Republicans,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartCountering China's influence in the Caribbean with a second Caribbean Basin Initiative House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Hispanic Conference.

“The question is why?” added Diaz-Balart. “Partly it’s why Latinos in the United States are here … we either come from a socialist country where there’s no liberty, the violence [in Latin America] and a third very important factor is economic opportunity.”

Those messages resonated among Hispanic voters in traditionally conservative communities, like the two South Florida districts that neighbor Diaz-Balart’s district or the large Texas district that Gonzales kept in Republican hands.

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Gonzales, a Navy veteran, beat Democrat Gina Ortiz-Jones, an Air Force veteran who was widely seen as a favorite to replace retiring Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDefense policy bill would create new cyber czar position House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains MORE (R-Texas).

The incoming Republican Hispanics will join Diaz-Balart, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler wins reelection MORE, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, Ohio Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezCheney, top GOP lawmakers ask Trump campaign for proof of election fraud House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members How to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably MORE, California Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE, West Virginia Rep. Alex MooneyAlexander (Alex) Xavier MooneyHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial MORE, Florida Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastFive Republicans vote for bill to decriminalize marijuana House passes sweeping reform bill to decriminalize marijuana House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members MORE and American Samoa Del. Aumua Amata RadewagenAmata (Aumua Amata) Catherine RadewagenHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members GOP women's group releases latest round of House endorsements Pelosi leads congressional delegation to Central America, Mexico border MORE.

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The Congressional Hispanic Conference was set up in the late 1990s when disagreements over Cuba policy and the election of then-Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraHispanic leaders coalesce in support of Lujan Grisham as HHS secretary Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Biden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security MORE (D-Calif.) to lead the CHC led the Cuban American members to split off from the bipartisan group.

The rescinding Republicans were led by former Florida Reps. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenDemocrats elect Meeks as first Black Foreign Affairs chairman House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down MORE and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart’s brother.

Since then, the Hispanic Conference has taken a different tack from its Democratic counterpart, for instance by allowing non-Hispanic Republicans to join.

Republican Hispanics are technically still allowed in the CHC, a provision tested by former Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members House adjusts format for dinner with new members after criticism Former GOP congressman calls for Biden to receive presidential briefings MORE (R-Fla.), who in 2017 accused the group of discrimination after his application to join was rejected by a majority of the members.

Under Mario Diaz-Balart, the Hispanic Conference has mostly had a cordial working relationship with its Democratic counterparts, particularly seeking common ground on immigration reform pushes.

“This growth in Hispanic Republican representation in Congress is very positive for the country,” he said. “It can only help those negotiations.”

But Diaz-Balart said he is ready to pass on the torch of the Hispanic Conference chairmanship.

“Having more Latino Republicans in Congress is a good thing,” he said, “but I’d like for another member to take that position.”