Legislators Speak On Diversity In CT Politics

Ryan Brooks, Assistant News Editor

Amidst an election year, Puerto Rican and Latino members of the Connecticut General Assembly came together virtually to discuss diversity and the state of Connecticut politics.

As of today, Latinos hold fourteen seats in the State House and three in the Senate. According to the Hartford Courant, twenty percent of the state population is Latino.

Many of the legislators who attended the virtual chat are members of the CT Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, a group of legislators who are committed to advancing the interests of minority communities. Representative Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford, said that he wants to level the playing field in terms of economic opportunity.

“At the turn of the century, there were many avenues to progress economically,” Vargas said. “But many of those avenues have unfortunately been slowly closed down. We have fewer opportunities in terms of the professions and higher education for our people.”

According to 24/7 Wall St., a financial news corporation, Connecticut is the second worst state for Hispanics to live in. Their analysis states that “while the median income for white households in the state is $78,959, Hispanic households are making less than $40,000.” The median household income for White households in Connecticut is one of the highest in the country, while the median income for Hispanic households is one the lowest.

Representative Hilda Santiago, D-Meriden, the first Puerto Rican legislator in Meriden’s history, expressed concern about the lack of Latina and minority women in the legislature.

“I think one of the big challenges is that we don’t have enough Hispanic women in the General Assembly,” Santiago said. “There are only two of us, and even at times its been hard to get support from the men who don’t [experience] being a single woman, being head of household and raising two kids as a single mother.”

Historically, Latino turnout for elections in Connecticut and around the country has been low. However, it surged in the 2018 state elections. According to the Connecticut Census Bureau, the Latino turnout rate increased from 56 percent in 2014 to 65 percent in 2018.

The increase was especially noticeable in towns that were 25 percent or more Hispanic such as New Britain, Hartford and Meriden.

For Latinos, or any student interested in getting involved in politics, Santiago says that there are ways to participate in the State General Assembly.

“We not only have interns at the state legislature but the congressional offices as well.” Santiago said. “They are always looking for internships during the summer, fall, and spring. Even if you are not interested in politics, it is an opportunity for you to see the other side of policymaking and see how we work with cases.”

Every State House member is up for re-election this year. For information on where to vote on election day, visit the portal.ct.gov website.