Why 2019 should be the year of the Latina

Well, that was one helluva year we just experienced in 2018 ... even if we forget – but how can we? – President Donald J. Trump’s unpredictability, tweets and blustering on a border wall.

Last year was all about counting the votes, from the Academy ballots that awarded Oscars to México’s gifted director/storyteller Guillermo del Toro and to the animated Disney/Pixar gem ‘Coco,’ to the mid-term elections that saw Democrats crush it with a 40-seat gain in the House.

Locally, we also witnessed the downfall of Republican Congressional incumbents David Valadao and Jeff Denham; Fresno municipal elections that will give the seven-member city council a Latino majority for the first time in almost 20 years; and, the success of Orosi school board member Eddie Valero in gaining entry to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.

Californians will have a new governor (Gavin Newsom); three Latinos holding statewide office (Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara); and, 29 members of the Latino Legislative Caucus (of which 15 are women).

Forget about the Blue Wave, the mid-term elections were all about a Brown Wave as Latinos showed up in sufficient enough numbers to help oust Valadao and Denham in heavily Latino districts and make an impact in other races.

However, expect 2019 to be the year of the Latina.

And, not just because of Congressswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive New Yorker who stunned a veteran Democrat to wrest a Brooklyn seat in Congress.

The needs of the San Joaquín Valley in the state Senate will be represented by 30-year-old Melissa Hurtado and former Assemblymember Anna Caballero. Hurtado shocked Republican incumbent Andy Vidak in the 14th District; and, Caballero defeated Madera County Supervisor Rob Poythress as both helped give Democrats a super majority.

Hurtado campaigned as a spokeswoman for the forgotten men, women and children in the district where poverty and lack of access to health care are major problems. Caballero – who served as Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency under Gov. Brown – expects to balance the needs of a sprawling district that stretches from the Salinas Valley to Madera County.

Hurtado, the youngest member of the state Senate, and Caballero are part of the new faces of politics in California. They join Los Ángeles labor leader María Elena Durazo and Mexican immigrant Susan Rubio as newcomers in that state body.

Annalisa Perea and Magdalena Gómez provide a younger and more diverse outlook on the State Center Community College Board of Trustees, which now has a majority of minorities (three Latinos, one black and one Asian). If you don’t think such a change will make much of a difference, you didn’t witness what should have been a mundane election of board officers in which the old guard lashed out publicly against a vice chair candidate (black).

In Kingsburg, Fresno City College student Jewel Hurtado, 20, was sworn in to the city council. Genoveva Islas got elected to the Fresno Unified School District board, making her the third Latina on the seven-member board.

A generation ago, women, and especially Latinas, were not at the table when it came time to make spending and policy decisions. Now, they are laying the groundwork for others to follow.