Ortiz: The Latine Greek path to winning elections

Sterling Ortiz, Assistant Opinion Editor

I woke up this past Tuesday reasonably stressed out. I love my fraternity and the entire global multicultural Greek landscape, and I love following elections with quality candidates. 

On this day, my interests combined in the Democratic primary for Texas’s 28th Congressional District, which includes downtown San Antonio, some San Antonio suburbs and South Texas, including Laredo.

The insurgent candidate, Jessica Cisneros, is an immigration lawyer running on an American social-democratic platform, focusing on transitioning Texas from fossil fuel energy to wind and solar energy, and empowering workers. She came within almost four points of winning the primary in 2020 and by the end of Tuesday, Cisneros was only 1.5 points behind the conservative incumbent Henry Cuellar, securing her spot in the runoff.

Most importantly to me about Cisneros is that she’s a proud sister of Sigma Lambda Gamma, and her winning means another Latine Greek in political office.

Greek chapter alumni in the traditionally white American councils are no stranger to political office. Neither are any Divine Nine alumni, the historically black fraternities and sororities. Some quick examples of the Divine Nine in politics are Vice President Kamala Harris, a soror of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a fellow soror of Alpha Kappa Alpha and Jasmine Crockett, a Delta Sigma Theta soror. On the other hand, Latine Greeks are relatively new to political power.

When I crossed into Omega Delta Phi almost three years ago, the most prominent Latine Greek alumni in elected office was U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). Menendez is an honorary brother of Lambda Theta Phi, a Latino-founded fraternity based in his home state of New Jersey.

Since I’ve been a brother, we’ve had a few more Latine Greek alumni run for high political office. In addition to Cisneros, who first jumped onto the political scene in 2019, I want to highlight Manuel Natal Albelo, José Garza, Jennifer Gutiérrez, Jalen McKee-Rodriguez and Aarón Ortíz to present the Latine Greek path to winning elections.

Natal is a Hermano of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, a Latino-founded fraternity. He joined their founding chapter at Cornell University. In 2020, as a candidate for the new party Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana, he came within 2.8% of becoming the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.Though polls and conventional wisdom gave him little chance of winning the election, the fact that Natal came within a cat’s whisker of becoming the mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest city gave me hope.

Garza became a brother of Sigma Lambda Beta, the most prevalent Latino-founded fraternity, at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2020, he successfully primaried the incumbent district attorney of Travis County, Texas, Margaret Moore. He ran on a harm reduction platform for low-level drug offenses, focusing county resources on only dangerous criminals. Garza has lived up to these promises over the first year of his tenure, recently rejecting more than 80 felony drug charges for lack of importance. 

Gutiérrez is a sister of Omega Phi Beta, a multicultural sorority based in New York. She serves as the councilmember of New York City Council District 34, encompassing neighborhoods along the Brooklyn and Queens border. Gutiérrez governs on the left of the Democratic caucus and “campaigned on increasing language access and extending housing vouchers to undocumented immigrants.” 

Finally, I’d like to highlight McKee-Rodriguez and Ortíz, both fellow brothers of Omega Delta Phi, a Latino-founded multicultural fraternity. Last year, he won a primary to become a councilmember in San Antonio District 2, where he currently fights for more monetary investment in his district. In 2018, Ortíz became the State Representative of Illinois’s 1st District, around Archer Heights and Gage Park in the southwest side of Chicago. In both cases, these ODPhis unseated long-time representatives by presenting a new vision for their districts, and they have both followed their promises in office.

Not only are these people representing their chapters and the overall Latine Greek mission, but they are also all trailblazers politically. From Natal Albelo to Gutiérrez, we see these people break ideological molds with social democratic platforms and responsive governance. In the runoffs for Texas’ 28th Congressional District, I hope Cisneros prevails and succeeds in winning the November general election. It’s one thing to have an honorary brother — Menendez — in the U.S. Senate and have Latine Greek alumni in locally elected offices; it’s quite another to have a recent Latine Greek alumni in Congress.

Sterling Ortiz is a SESP fourth-year. You can contact him at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.