Michelle de la Isla, mayor of Topeka, Kansas, is running for Congress, hoping to represent District 2 in her Midwestern state. If she wins, she’ll be the first member of Congress of Puerto Rican descent from her state.
De la Isla has lived in Kansas since 2000, when she became a student at Wichita State University. She was born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico by her grandparents. De la Isla has served as Topeka mayor for two years, and was on the City Council for five years before that.
In 2010, she became the Executive Director of Topeka Habitat for Humanity. Her experiences led her to involvement with city planning in Topeka and eventually to the mayor’s position.
De la Isla also had a formative summer experience working for Upward Bound. She had faced challenges in her youth, including homelessness and unplanned pregnancy. Her job with Upward Bound made her aware that other youth faced challenges like hers, and she developed a desire to help that led her to community activism in a number of organizations.
De la Isla is up against James Windholz in the August Democratic primary. Republicans facing off in the Republican primary include incumbent Steve Watkins (R-KS), Jacob LaTurner, and Dennis Taylor.
The winners of the primaries will race against one another in the November election.
Kansas has never had a Hispanic representative in Congress before. The Hispanic population of Kansas is 12.2%, of whom 12,793 identify themselves as Puerto Rican, according to the Census Bureau.
Other current members of Congress of Puerto Rican heritage include Jose Serrano (D-NY), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Darren Soto (D-FL), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR). Ritchie Torres is expected to with the seat of retiring member Rep. Serrano next Congress.
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