Former Planned Parenthood president and author Cecile Richards said Sunday that the surge of Latina candidates elected across the United States points to increasing political power among women.
Richards touted the wins last year of Elizabeth Guzmán (D) and Hala Ayala (D) to the Virginia House of Delegates, but also pointed to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), the 28-year-old up-and-comer who ousted 10-term Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a surprise primary upset last month.
“I know you can’t tell this story enough … When she is sworn into office, she will be the youngest woman ever to be in Congress,” Richards said Sunday at a conference organized by UnidosUS, the country’s largest Latino advocacy group. “They are proof that yes, the future is Latina.”
Crowley was the fourth-ranking House Democrat and had been rumored as a possible candidate for the House Speakership if Democrats took back the lower chamber in November.
But Ocasio-Cortez, who ran her campaign as a democratic socialist, beat out Crowley by double digits, despite polling that had indicated a comfortable lead for the reigning representative. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory propelled the young Latina to mainstream political prominence. One week later, her press office was still buried under more than 1,000 media requests.
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A historic 602 women are running for office or said they will run for Congress or a governorship, according to data from Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. The political phenomenon has the potential to boost the number of House seats held by women by 150.
Richards called the unprecedented wave of women candidates the “most potent political force in America right now.”
“Women are done waiting their turn or asking for permission. We are reclaiming our time,” she said.
Richards said women’s political involvement stands to be a boon for helping end workplace and sexual harassment.
“Women are demanding an end to abuse and harassment at work that should have ended a long time ago, and putting this country on notice that time’s up right now in America.”
Richards served as the head of Planned Parenthood for more than a decade, stepping down from her role in April. Richards, who also led Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the organization’s political arm, announced in January that she would be stepping down in order to support Democratic candidates with fundraising and campaigning in the lead-up to the November’s midterm elections.
“This isn’t the time for retreat. This is the time to double down on organizing, on mobilization, to make sure that every single Latino in this country is ready to vote in November,” Richards said. “Basta ya!”