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NJ Latina leaders announce launch of Latina Civic PAC 

Statewide Latina leaders Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, Laura Matos and Andrea Martinez-Mejia recently announced the launching of a newly formed organization – Latina Civic. 

On Twitter, the organization announced that Latina Civic will be a rebrand / spin-off of LUPE PAC, an organization that began in 1999 in collaboration with the Hispanic National Bar Association to organize a national training event for Latinas interested in running for public office. This initial event led to the official launch of LUPE in 2001. 

Latina Civic

NJ Latina Leaders announce launch of LUPE PAC rebrand / spin-off, Latina Civic PAC. (Image source)

For years, LUPE helped Latinas through training and networking opportunities. Then, after successfully graduating many Latinas from campaign training, it became clear that LUPE needed to expand its work beyond training and networking opportunities, and in 2009 LUPE PAC was launched. The  non-partisan political action committee, focused solely on providing financial support to progressive Latinas who make the leap and run for office, is now launching a rebrand / spin-off, Latina Civic PAC, which will work to continue the mission of supporting Latinas’ pursuits in civic life and leadership. 

With an eye on the growing Latina engagement in civic and electoral activities in the state of New Jersey, Latina Civic forms three separate entities that creates diverse opportunities for participation and engagement of Latinas in all aspects of the political process. From education and training to issue advocacy & electoral candidate support the ultimate goal is getting Latinas’ voices heard at the ballot box and in the public sphere.

Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, LUPE PAC board member and Latina Civic Action President. (Image Source)

“Supporting women will continue to be at the forefront of our organization’s mission. New Jersey is a state with so much opportunity and potential for Latinas; our growing numbers as a population also means that we must enhance our capacity to generate policy ideas, advocate on behalf of our families and engage voters to vote for our issues and our candidates. We look forward to working with our partners to increase equity of opportunity and political power for Latinas across the state,” said Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina.

“We are very excited that this incredible group of women will continue to collectively address the dire need for increased representation in all levels of elected and appointed office in New Jersey,” adds Laura Matos. “This continued effort and coordinated approach will be fundamental in making tangible change in the demographics of our elected and appointed officials.” 

Increasing numbers of Latinas in civic leadership

As a non-partisan political action committee, Latina Civic PAC’s mission is to increase the number of Latinas in elected and appointed office in the State of New Jersey. The committee promotes and supports progressive leaders who stand up for an agenda that invests in Latina political leadership and advances critical issues that matter to Latinas in New Jersey. The PAC will also continue to distribute tens of thousands of dollars every election cycle to endorsed Latinas throughout the state.

“Many of us have worked for over twenty years to empower Latinas across the state to be civically engaged. Our community represents over 19% of the population in New Jersey, and we look forward to the day that our representation in elected offices is reflective of that number,” said Arlene Quinones Perez, who will serve as General Counsel.

LUPEPAC’s fact sheet reports that there are over 831,000 Latino eligible voters in New Jersey–the seventh largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter population nationally, and 52% of eligible Latino voters in NJ are Latinas.

Additionally, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, Latina representation in New Jersey’s government is as follows: 

NJ driver's licenses, Senator Teresa Ruiz

Senator Teresa Ruiz (L) with Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business Inc. at the 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo.

Out of 120 seats in the legislature, only 8 Latinas occupy those seats:

Out of 137 County Freeholder seats, only 4 Latinas occupy those seats:

  • Germaine Ortiz (D-Bergen)
  • Carmen Rodriguez (D-Camden)
  • Caridad Rodriguez (D-Hudson)
  • Blanquita Valenti (D-Middlesex)

Out of 65 County Constitutional Officers in NJ, only one Latina serves in those seats: Bernice Toledo (D-Passaic). Out 74 cities with population over 30,000 residents, only one Latina serves as Mayor: Wilda Diaz, Perth Amboy. No Latina from New Jersey has ever served as a U.S. Congresswoman or US Senator.

You might be interested: “I’m tired of waiting”: Latina Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz runs for Mass. Governor 

Latina Civic’s mission will be to increase these numbers through education and training. 

“Educating and training Latinas to be civically engaged will be paramount in all that we do at the Foundation. We will work hard to ensure that Latinas receive the necessary tools to be competitive in New Jersey, which has been a difficult process thus far,” added Andrea Martinez-Mejia.

NJ Senator Teresa Ruiz is Inspirational Speaker at 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo

Senator M. Teresa Ruiz was elected as a Democrat to the New Jersey Senate in 2007 and re-elected in 2011, 2013 and 2017. She was elected by her colleagues in January to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore, becoming the first Latina to serve in a leadership position in the New Jersey Senate. Senator Ruiz is chair of the Senate Education Committee. The senator is the author of a law that overhauled the state’s century-old teacher tenure statute. Signed in 2012, the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act put standards in place requiring tenure to be earned and maintained through ongoing performance measurements, but also to ensure that if deficiencies are identified, educators get the help they need. The legislation was endorsed by the state teachers’ union and received unanimous bipartisan support in the state Legislature.

Senator Teresa Ruiz

Senator Ruiz was the prime sponsor of New Jersey’s version of the DREAM Act, a measure designed to provide higher education opportunities to all students in the state. Signed in December 2013, the law makes undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition rates at New Jersey public colleges and universities. The Garden State became the 17th in the nation to legislatively establish tuition equity for DREAMers under the law.

The Senator has led the legislative effort to improve programs and services for children in the state, from prenatal to age 5. This year, she championed and was successful in securing an additional $25 million in the FY 2018 state budget to expand the state’s model quality Pre-K to more school districts. She is the prime sponsor of an ‘early childhood bill package’ to establish full-day kindergarten in all public school districts, fund wrap-around services for preschool children in former Abbott districts, and to help working families through a child care tax credit program. The bill package would also continue the effort to expand Pre-K and create a state Department of Early Childhood. She was also the sponsor of a law to expand the state’s home visitation programs for new mothers to more families.

The Senator has also focused on protecting children with learning disabilities, as well as older New Jerseyans. She sponsored a law to improve programs in public schools to identify students with difficulty reading and to provide them with stronger academic supports. She was the prime sponsor of a bill to create the New Jersey Advisory Council on End-of-Life Care in order to more effectively meet the special needs of those who are approaching the end of life.

Senator Ruiz was the prime sponsor of a 2009 law prohibiting individuals from purchasing more than one handgun in a month. She was also a prime sponsor of “The Opportunity to Compete Act,” the 2014 law more commonly known as “ban the box” which prohibits employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal record during the initial interview process, including on a job application.

Senator Ruiz supporting NJ DREAMers

The Senator was the sponsor of a 2016 law designating a portion of Route 21 in Newark as the “Robert Clemente Memorial Highway” in honor of the sports figure and humanitarian who has served as an inspiration to many New Jersey residents.

She is a founding member of the Robert Treat Academy and also served as a trustee of the Essex County Vocational Technical School. She is vice chair of the Essex County Democratic Party and is deputy chief of staff to Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. She served as an elected delegate at the Democratic National Conventions in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. During the 2012 convention, Senator Ruiz joined education advocates from across the country as a panelist on the Democrats For Education Reform-sponsored education town hall.

The senator was a 2010 Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellow, one of 24 individuals identified by the program’s leadership as America’s emerging political leaders with reputations for intellect, thoughtfulness, and a commitment to civil dialogue. She is a 2014 Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellow, part of a program named for former governors Jim Hunt (D-NC) and Tom Kean (R-NJ) designed for elected officials in the nation who have committed themselves to K-12 policy. Senator Ruiz is also a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program.

You might be interested: DREAMers included in NJ Second Year Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG)