2 minute read

Nydia Velázquez: 1953—: U.S. Congressional Representative

Re-elected Despite Reduced Latino Percentage

Velázquez cruised to re-election in 1994 and 1996. The following year the boundary lines of her district were ruled to have been impermissibly based on racial categories (although Hispanics can be of any race), and the new district that resulted contained a sharply reduced Latino proportion of 49 percent. The sometimes outspoken Velázquez also wrangled with local Democratic party leaders, and she faced unfavorable demographic trends—by the late 1990s most of New York's Hispanics came from places other than Puerto Rico. For all these reasons, observers speculated that Velázquez might face a primary challenge in 1998. But by that time she had built a formidable grass-roots and fundraising organization, and the potential challenge evaporated.

In Congress Velázquez has continued to work on behalf of immigrants and to take an interest in Puerto Rican affairs. Velázquez supported the island's commonwealth status rather than statehood or independence from the United States. She was among those arrested during protests that eventually brought an end to military exercises at the U.S. Navy's Vieques bombing range in the year 2000. Her influence rose sharply when she became the ranking Democrat on the House's Small Business Committee in 1998. That post helped Velázquez grease the wheels for legislation aiding small business owners hurt by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and put her in line for a powerful committee chairmanship should the Democrats manage to regain their House majority in the 2002 elections.

Velázquez had lobbied former president Bill Clinton to increase Hispanic representation in his adminstration, but became a bigger thorn in the side of President George W. Bush. She pushed for tax relief for small business owners (including tax deductions for health insurance for the self-employed) as Congress debated Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2002, telling the Boston Business Journal that "Bush says the economy is in trouble and that tax cuts are the main solution to the problem. Yet he neglects the prime force in this economy—small business—instead favoring big business and the richest people in the country." Velázquez faced redistricting once again as a result of New York's loss of a congressional seat after the 2000 census, but seemed likely to emerge unscathed. She seemed a rising political star whose influence could only grow as Hispanic representation in the United States showed its inevitable increase.



Barone, Michael, and Richard E. Cohen, The Almanac of American Politics: 2002, National Journal, 2001.


Boston Business Journal, February 16, 2001, p. 31.

Campaigns and Elections, April 2000, p. 18.

Crain's New York Business, November 15, 1999, p. 24; July 24, 2000, p. 4.

Time, November 2, 1992, p. 44.

US Newswire, October 3, 2001.

WWD, July 11, 1996, p. 2.

—James M. Manheim

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Theodosius I to David Watmough Biography - David Watmough comments:Nydia Velázquez: 1953—: U.S. Congressional Representative Biography - Earned Master's Degree, Served On New York City Council, Re-elected Despite Reduced Latino Percentage