Latina GOP Legislator Slams Wisconsin Minority Caucus

Monday, 06 Jan 2014 01:26 PM

By Lisa Barron

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A newly elected GOP Wisconsin legislator, state Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, says she does not "need to be a part" of the Black and Latino Caucus.

Rodriguez, an immigrant from El Salvador, was sworn in last month as the Legislature's second Latina lawmaker after defeating her Democratic challenger in a special election for the seat vacated by former Republican Rep. Mark Honadel.

Rodriguez's district is 85 percent white, sparking questions in the Wisconsin State Journal about whether she would be invited to join the caucus, which this year, for the first time, is inviting white lawmakers who represent minority districts to attend meetings.

"A lot of our effectiveness is going to be the help of our other partners and advocacy groups in the community," Democratic caucus chairman Rep. Mandela Barnes told the Journal.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that might not include Rodriguez, who put out a news release saying, "As an immigrant, I'm proud of my Salvadorian heritage. I'm also proud of the work I’ve done with low-income Hispanic parents across the state helping them invest in the future of their children."

"And so with due deference to Representative Mandela Barnes and his group, I don’t need to be a part of a minority caucus to understand communities of color or find ways to empower them," she added.

Before being elected to public office, Rodriguez was the outreach coordinator for Hispanics for School Choice, a voucher schools group.

"I’ve worked long enough in struggling communities to understand that no self-appointed group or organization, whether white, black, or Latino, owns the right to represent any one segment of our society," she stated in the release.

"The voters of the 21st Assembly District sent me to Madison, not to be bogged down by identity politics, but to work with my colleagues and Governor Walker to continue making Wisconsin a great place for everyone."

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