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Latinos in Local Politics

Por Mariel Fiori
October 2023
What are the advantages, disadvantages, and responsibilities of being called Latino in local politics? La Voz magazine, the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), and Bard College's Political Studies program invite you to a roundtable discussion with active Hispanics in local politics to answer these and other questions. Moderated by Mariel Fiori, co-founder and director of La Voz. Thursday, October 12th at 6 pm in the MPR of the Bertelsmann Campus Center at Bard. Refreshments will be served. Free and open to the public.
Kevindaryán Luján, legislator of Orange County
Luján is a first-generation Colombian American and a resident of the city of Newburgh. He was born and raised in the Hudson Valley, and his family has lived in Newburgh for over 30 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the International University of Florida in Miami and a master’s degree in international relations and European Studies from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. He began his career in politics as a field deputy organizer for Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of the 18th District in 2014 and has since worked on numerous local, state, and federal campaigns throughout the Hudson Valley. He was elected as a member of the Orange County Legislature for District 4, Newburgh, in 2017, becoming the first Latino elected and one of the youngest. He was also the first Latino to run for the 104th Assembly District, where he placed second in a primary with five candidates. He serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh and is a co-founder of the Newburgh Repair Café, a member of the Newburgh Parks Conservation Board, a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee, and a member of the Orange County Latino Democrats, among others.

Sandra Oxford, Secretary of the Working Families Party (WFP) for New York
Born in Manhattan and raised in Queens, Sandra intentionally raised her two children in the rural communities of Ulster and Sullivan counties, where she has lived for over 30 years. In 1988, her world collided with the brutal and unjust conditions faced by farmworkers. Appalled by the economic inequality and systemic racism legislatively persisting since the Jim Crow era, she became a strong ally of farmworkers and the Campaign for Farmworker Justice in New York State. In Sullivan County, she expanded her advocacy for workers' rights. Exposing the IDA, the Empire Zone Program, and local officials complicit in poverty-promoting employment as "economic development" is part of her calling. This drove her involvement as an active member of the Working Families Party (WFP) in the Mid-Hudson region, serving on the State Committee and as a delegate to the judicial convention. In 2018, she was elected as an official of the WFP for the state of New York. Her grassroots work is complemented by community service. She currently serves on the board of Sun-River-Health Centers, Worker Justice Center of New York, and the Advisory Board of the Northstar Fund's Hudson Valley chapter.

Génesis Ramos, Democratic legislator of Orange County
Ramos is a proud daughter of Honduran immigrants and the first Latina and woman of color elected to the Orange County Legislature, currently the youngest. 

With over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector, she recently developed and established the Desmond Center for Community Engagement and Wellness at Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC), which provides health and wellness services, addressing health equity gaps in the city of Newburgh and surrounding areas. She is now transitioning into the public policy space as a special advisor to the Vice President of Programs at PolicyLink, a national research and action institute focused on advancing racial and economic equity. Ramos also teaches a public policy and healthcare course in MSMC's MBA in Health Management program, where she analyzes the intersections between health outcomes and policies. Ramos graduated from Marist College with her master’s in public administration.

Yvette Valdés Smith, Democratic legislator of Dutchess County
Valdés Smith is the minority leader in the Dutchess County Legislature, representing District 16 (Fishkill and Beacon). She seeks re-election this November and shares her story: "Raised in Puerto Rico by my mother, a schoolteacher, and my father, a small business owner, I learned from an early age that we must do right by our neighbors. Volunteering was a key component of our family values. As I grew up, my mother's family lived in Syracuse and Beacon, and I spent a lot of time in Dutchess County during my youth. I completed college in the Hudson Valley, fell in love with this beautiful community, and have been here ever since. As a former public-school teacher and proud member of the union (NYSUT), I know that hard work and everyday values are worth fighting for. I believe our government should be more inclusive and diverse. In addition to my work in the Legislature, I am vice president of the Stony Kill Farm Executive Board, a member of the Vote Mama Advisory Committee, and a proud member of DDWC. I believe in working to ensure that everyone has equal access to a high quality of life."

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La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson



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