One of the fastest growing racial groups in the United States, Latinos will make up about a quarter of the population by 2050, according to the Pew Research Center.
After Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee commissioned the Growth and Opportunity Project to ascertain what had gone wrong. Among its findings, it said that it was “imperative that the RNC changes how it engages with Hispanic communities to welcome in new members of our party.”
Republicans have struggled to win a large minority of Latino voters. In 40 years, George W. Bush fared the best, winning 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. Donald Trump won only 28 percent of Latinos in 2016, just one point better than Romney.
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With that in mind, it's obvious that the GOP still has work to do in winning over Latino Americans, especially with the group's sizable presence in several swing states, specifically Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona.
However, Republicans have a strong corps of Latino leaders in their ranks. Here, questsin has chosen the 50 most influential Latino Republicans based on two criteria: the importance of their positions and the prominence of their platforms.
- Ted Cruz — A Cuban-American, Cruz is the firebrand junior senator from Texas, which has the second largest Latino population of any state. He served in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department and made his own run for the Oval Office in 2016. While Cruz’s presidential bid was cut short, he was Donald Trump’s fiercest competition in the Republican primary.
- Marco Rubio — Florida, where Rubio is the junior senator, has the third largest Latino population of any state. The West Miami native’s fast political ascent began as a city commissioner in 1998 and crested in 2011 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016 but was re-elected to his second term as senator. This son of Cuban immigrants is still one of the youngest senators with plenty of politics ahead of him.
- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — Born in Cuba, Ros-Lehtinen is the first Latina ever to be elected to Congress. She was also the first Republican woman elected to the House from Florida. She represents Florida’s 27th District. Ros-Lehtinen serves as the chair emeritus of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and chairs the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa and serves on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, all committees that may figure prominently during the Trump administration.
- Susana Martinez — She is not only the first Latina governor in the U.S., but Martinez, from New Mexico, serves as chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association. Martinez, who is of Mexican descent, was named “Woman of the Year” by Hispanic Business Magazine for her efforts in reducing taxes and making her state more business friendly. Prior to becoming governor, Martinez was an effective district attorney of the 3rd Judicial District of Doña Ana County for 25 years.
- Brian Sandoval — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is of Mexican heritage, was the first Hispanic candidate elected to statewide office in the Silver State. Previously, he served as an attorney general and a judge on the U.S. District Court for Nevada. Sandoval has expressed skepticism regarding President Trump’s initiative to build a wall along the southern U.S. border, and it will be an interesting issue on which to watch him as the popular Republican governor was considered a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016. Sandoval’s second and final term as Nevada’s governor expires in 2018.
- Lincoln Díaz-Balart — The older brother of U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, Lincoln served in the House as well, representing Florida’s 21st District from 1993 until his retirement in 2011. In 1994, Lincoln Diaz-Balart became the first Hispanic assigned to the Rules Committee. He currently serves as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.
- Mario Díaz-Balart — Born to Cuban immigrants in nearby Fort Lauderdale, Díaz-Balart represents Florida’s 25th District, which includes much of southwestern Miami-Dade County. He is currently serving his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Before being elected to Congress in 2002 he served an equally long time in Florida’s House and Senate.
- Ana Navarro — The Nicaraguan-born Navarro arrived in America as a child with her family in political exile; she became an American under amnesty granted by then-President Ronald Reagan. She is a Republican political strategist and commentator on CNN and several other networks. Her profile and influence has risen considerably from her staunch opposition to Donald Trump, going so far as to cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton. She continues to be President Trump's biggest Republican critic.
- George P. Bush — Son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, George P. Bush serves as the land commissioner in his native state of Texas. His mother, Columba Bush, is originally from Mexico, but is now a U.S. citizen. For the sake of party unity, he endorsed Republican candidate Donald Trump, the only Bush to publicly do so, although he admitted it was "a bitter pill," given the things Trump said about his family. Bush is also active in the Navy reserves and Hispanic Republicans of Texas, the latter of which works to promote outreach to Hispanic voters in the state.
- Bill Flores — Ninth-generation Texan Flores’ Spanish ancestors settled in what was then the country’s territory of Mexico in 1725. He represents Texas’ 17th District in Congress. In the four general elections Flores has ran, he garnered no less than 60 percent of the votes. During his third term, he chaired the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus of House Republicans. Currently, Flores sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the board of directors of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.
- Raúl Labrador — Born in Puerto Rico, Labrador moved stateside to Las Vegas with his mother when he was teenager. Now, he represents the congressional 1st District of Idaho. He introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which was aimed at protecting those who opposed same-sex marriage based on religious beliefs. He previously served in the Idaho House of Representatives. His newest initiative is a constitutional amendment to create congressional term limits of 12 years, which will be a real test of his influence.
- Linda Chavez — A prominent figure in Republican politics since her stint as White House director of public liaison during the Reagan administration, Chavez was honored as a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in April 2000. A year later, she was the first Latina nominated for a Cabinet appointment — under President George W. Bush for secretary of Labor. As a writer, syndicated columnist, nonprofit founder, and questsin Insider, she has mined her decades of experience to advance Republican policy concerns.
- Carlos Curbelo — U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a son of Cuban exiles, represents Florida’s 26th District. He stands out among his peers as one of few Republicans willing to work with Democrats on climate change legislation; Curbelo has also shown a special interest in environmental issues related to the lionfish invasion of Florida’s coastal waters. He previously served as a member of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board; and before public service, Curbelo was a small-business owner and philanthropist in Miami.
- Alex Mooney — Representing West Virginia’s 2nd District, Mooney is the first Hispanic elected to Congress from West Virginia. Mooney first ran for public office for the New Hampshire House of Representatives while attending Dartmouth College; a few years later he would be elected to the Maryland Senate. He served two terms as a state senator before moving to West Virginia and winning a seat in the state House in 2014. Mooney has said his mother, a Cuban refugee that escaped imprisonment, and his father, a Vietnam veteran, inspires his American values.
- John Sanchez — The great, great grandson of a 19th-century territorial legislator before New Mexico became a state, Sanchez is the state's 29th lieutenant governor. In 2018, New Mexico will elect a new governor, and Sanchez's name has been mentioned as the Republican frontrunner. He ran for governor previously, in 2002, losing in the general election to Democrat Bill Richardson.
- Carlos López-Cantera — Born prematurely while his Cuban refugee parents vacationed in Madrid, Spain, Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera grew up in Miami. Before Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to that position, he was previously the property appraiser of Miami-Dade County as well as a four-term state representative. López-Cantera ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, but withdrew when Sen. Marco Rubio dropped his presidential bid and entered the race to retain his seat.
- Evelyn Sanguinetti — Sanguinetti was born to a Cuban mother and Ecuadorian father in Miami, Florida, and speaks Spanish as her first language. She is the first Hispanic to be elected lieutenant governor in Illinois and the first-ever Latina lieutenant governor in the U.S.
- Helen Aguirre-Ferré — Of Nicaraguan descent, Aguirre-Ferré was the GOP’s Hispanic Communications director before she was named special assistant to President Trump and the White House director of Media Affairs. She was previously a senior adviser to 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and an op-ed columnist for The Miami Herald. Upon her White House appointment, Politico called her "one of South Florida’s most respected Spanish-language media figures."
- Daniel Garza — Born to Mexican parents in California, Garza is executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, an organization that promotes conservative values to the Hispanic community. He also serves on the board of The Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy.
- Samuel Rodriguez — Born to Puerto Rican parents, Rodriguez is an evangelical pastor and the founder and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which is comprised of more than 40,000 Latino member churches. He also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Evangelicals.
- Hector Barreto — As chairman of The Latino Coalition, one of the nation’s largest Latino advocacy groups, and president of the Hispanic Business Roundtable Institute, Barreto was inducted into the Minority Business Hall of Fame. He previously served as the head of the Small Business Administration under former President George W. Bush.
- Jaime Herrera Beutler — She represents Washington’s congressional 3rd District and happens to be the third youngest woman serving in Congress. Of Mexican descent because of her father, she is the first Hispanic in history to represent the state of Washington in Congress. Herrera Beutler served in the Washington state House of Representatives prior to being elected to D.C.
- Al Cardenas — The Cuban-born Cardenas is a highly regarded American lawyer and lobbyist and is often referred to as a kingmaker. The former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, he became the first Hispanic to lead a major state party; and he remains the last Hispanic to chair the Florida GOP. Cardenas was appointed to multiple roles in both Reagan's and Bush's administrations. A longtime friend of Jeb Bush, he was one of his most vocal supporters and an adviser and fundraiser for his presidential campaign in 2016.
- Alex Castellanos — A Cuban-American, Castellanos is a Republican political consultant who has worked on the media campaigns of presidential candidates Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush. GQ called him one of the most cutthroat strategists in politics, and he has been dubbed "the father of the attack ad." Castellanos has also been credited with coining the term "soccer mom." He is the co-founder of Purple Strategies, a bipartisan public affairs agency he formed with lawyer and Democratic consultant Steve McMahon. Castellanos frequently appears on "Meet the Press" and CNN.
- Alberto Gonzales — President George W. Bush's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was the highest-ranking Hispanic to ever serve in the executive branch to date and the first Latino to serve as the White House Counsel. Prior to his appointment to U.S. attorney general, he was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. Gonzalez is now the dean of law at Belmont University.
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- Bettina Inclán — She was the RNC’s first national director of Hispanic Outreach. Inclán began the National Republican Congressional Commission's Project Grow, aimed at increasing participation and representation of women in office as well as improving the party's communication with women voters. Now, Inclán is a political commentator who has appeared on several networks, and she has been recognized as someone to follow on Twitter.
- Tomás Pedro Regalado — Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1947, Regalado was brought to America through Operation Peter Pan, which pulled children out of the Communist regime in the early '60s. Prior to entering politics, he built an inspiring career as a journalist that took around the world and nearly into outer space. He was the first Cuban-American to join the White House Press Corps. In the 2009, Regalado was elected the mayor of Miami, Florida, garnering 72 percent of the vote; he was re-elected with 78 percent of the vote.
- Roger Noriega — Of Mexican heritage, Noriega was born in Wichita, Kansas. Currently, he is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he coordinates the Institute's Latin America policy. Noriega served as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs under President George W. Bush.
- Mario H. Lopez — A strong voice for Latino interests and Republican ideals, Lopez is the president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, "a nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening working families by promoting common-sense public policy solutions that foster individual liberty, opportunity, and prosperity, and the first center-right, nonpartisan national Latino advocacy organization governed exclusively by Latino political and public policy professionals. " He's currently a member of the U.S. Senate Republican Task Force of Hispanic Affairs and the former executive director of the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Hispanic Conference. Lopez is frequently asked to weigh in on current affairs across all every media platform — in English and Spanish.
- Manuel A. Rosales — Before becoming a fixture of Latino politics in D.C., Rosales was a respected member of the banking and finance community in California, culminating in a chairmanship of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; he would then be twice elected to head the U.S. chamber. Today, he chairs the Latino National Republican Coalition and sits on the board of directors at The Latino Coalition.
- Anitere Flores — Serving in the Florida state Senate since 2010, Flores is the first female Hispanic to have served in both the state Senate and House of Representatives since 1986. She passed legislation that created a scholarship for kids who were first in their family to attend college. As the president pro tempore, she is the second-highest ranking state senator in Florida.
- Pete Lopez — Born in Miami, Florida, Lopez's family moved to his mother's home state of New York shortly after his birth. He represents the 102nd District in the New York state Assembly. He began his political career as the village trustee of Schoharie at age 21 and then served in a number of legislative offices before winning the position of Schoharie county clerk prior to Assembly seat.
- Jessie Rodriguez — Born in El Salvador, Rodriguez became the first Hispanic immigrant in Wisconsin history to be elected to the state Legislature. She previously served as outreach coordinator for Hispanics for School Choice.
- Sean Reyes — Of Filipino, Spanish, Japanese, and Native Hawaiian descent, Reyes is considered to be the first ethnic minority to hold statewide office in Utah. In 2016, he was re-elected to a full term as the state's attorney general after his 2013 appointment by Gov. Gary Herbert. Reyes has been recognized nationally on several occasions, including an appointment by President George W. Bush and Congress to a commission by which he conducted public hearings throughout the country to advise the president and Congress on Latino issues, including a National Museum of the American Latino.
- Carlos Perez — A Cuban-American entrepreneur, who served as an adviser to President Ronald Reagan and Congressman Jack Kemp, currently hosts a one-hour radio talk show on Saturdays, which broadcasts in the Miami area. The show, Citizens for Democracy, defends democracy in Cuba and the Americas.
- Zeus Rodriguez — He is the founder of Hispanics for School Choice and former president of St. Anthony School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the nation’s largest K-12 Catholic school. He is currently president of Education Matters–Latino, specializing in education reform and Latino community development.
- Jennifer Sevilla Korn — She is currently the special assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison. Prior to that role, Korn was the deputy political director and national field director for Hispanic Initiatives at the RNC, the executive director of the Hispanic Leadership Network, and President George W. Bush's White House director of Hispanic and Women's Affairs.
- Alexander Acosta — President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta has a long history of upholding labor law, as an educator and a dean, an attorney, and a member of the National Labor Relations Board under President George W. Bush.
- Jason Mattera — The best-selling author of three books exposing liberal hypocracy is also an Emmy-nominated journalist for his dogged reporting on Crime Watch Daily. Of Italian and Puerto Rican ancestry, Mattera has garnered more than 21,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 8,000 YouTube subscribers.
- Miguel Diaz de la Portilla — Former Republican Florida state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla represented the mostly Democratic 37th District from 2012 to 2016. During his last year in office, the state senator was lauded by the American Psychiatric Association for his legislative efforts to improve mental health services in the criminal justice system. But, he was vilified by the National Rifle Association for killing open-carry and campus-carry bills in committee.
- Marilinda Garcia — At 23, Garcia won a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2006, and she was re-elected for three more terms. The RNC recognized her a “rising star” in 2013. Now, she is the national spokesperson for the LIBRE Initiative.
- Leslie Sanchez —The former executive director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans under President George W. Bush, Sanchez is one of a few Hispanic political analysts on major news networks, providing election coverage for CNN and BBC. As a writer, consultant, and market researcher, she’s helped corporate and government groups connect with female and Latino audiences. Sanchez also appeared on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” outlasting most of her competitors and making her a household name.
- Andy Garcia — The Havana-born actor is a well-known conservative that gave vocal support to Mitt Romney in 2012, despite the candidate’s poor showing with Hispanic voters. Garcia has starred in several blockbuster movies, but he has also made many movies as an actor, director, and producer that allowed him to explore and share his Cuban and Latin American heritage. A particularly favorite theme of his work is pre-Castro Cuba as he was born shortly before the Communist takeover and only knew the country under the dictatorship, which Garcia has frequently criticized after his family’s exile.
- Tony Suarez — This Norfolk, Virginia, pastor serves as the executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the largest of its kind. Suarez hosts his own evangelical program and is often a guest on several cable news shows.
- Anselmo Villarreal — The Aramark corporation honored and awarded Villarreal for his community leadership and advocacy; Villarreal is president and CEO of La Casa de Esperanza, Inc., a Hispanic community outreach organization in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in Paul Ryan’s district. La Casa received a $40,000 grant with this recognition. He is also a former member of the Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Board.
- Alfonso Aguilar — When the Homeland Security Act divided the functions of the Immigration and Naturalization Services into three distinct offices, President George W. Bush appointed Aguilar as the first chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services, which was tasked with processing benefit applications. During his tenure there, he led a revamp of the naturalization test. Aguilar’s personal and professional ambition has been to help immigrants integrate into America, and he has been called “the conservative voice of immigration reform. While initially a Hispanic surrogate for the Trump campaign, Aguilar pulled his support two months ahead of the election as the candidate took an increasingly hardline approach to immigration.
- Ed Lopez-Reyes — In 1998, the 23-year-old, Puerto Rico-born Lopez-Reyes ran as the Republican nominee for Rhode Island’s secretary of state. He served at the Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe Analytic Center in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He was a member of the national leadership committee at Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. Lopez-Reyes is also the former national vice chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. Currently, he runs the consulting firm Wolf and King Strategies and his writes published articles on public policy and popular music.
- Rachel Campos-Duffy — A conservative voice of her generation, Campos-Duffy has been appearing on television since her debut on the third season of MTV’s “The Real World.” She has appeared as a guest hostess on “The View” and as a regular panelist on “Outnumbered” and several other Fox News programs as a contributor. She has a master’s degree in international affairs and is a spokeswoman for the The LIBRE Initiative. Campos-Duffy met her husband, Republican Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy — another “Real World” alum — on MTV’s “Road Rules”; they married in 1999 and have eight children together.
- Rosario Marin — Born in Mexico, Marin is a former U.S. Treasurer under President George W. Bush; she wrote a book about her experience titled "Leading Between Two Worlds: Lessons from the First Mexican-Born Treasurer of the United States." She took Donald Trump’s campaign language regarding Mexicans as a personal insult, and vowed to neither vote nor endorse his candidacy for president.
- Massey Villarreal — President and CEO of Precision Task Group, Inc., Villarreal was named by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in 2002. After Donald Trump’s tough talk on immigration he delivered in Phoenix in September 2016, Villarreal became one of the candidate’s staunchest critics, but ultimately voted for him anyway.
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Jordan Morales, a U.S. Air Force veteran and Republican activist who lives in Lexington, South Carolina, writes for The Hispanic Conservative. He chaired Sen. Marco Rubio's Hispanic Coalition of South Carolina during the 2016 primaries. He’s also a guest contributor for the Greenville News in South Carolina.