Ritchie Torres is no stranger to making history. In 2013 he became the youngest, and first openly gay member to represent the Bronx on the New York City Council at age 25. Now he’s won Congressman Jose Serrano’s open seat in New York’s 15th District which is rated by the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index as a D+44, making it the most Democratic district in America, The Hill reports. Torres is not the Congress member who is a person of color, he joins AOC and The Squad who were all reelected, and their newest member, Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush, the first Black woman from Missouri to join Congress. Torres and Mondaire Jones, who will represent New York’s 17th District, became the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress.
In response to his win, he tweeted, “Thank you. Tonight, we made history. It is the honor of a lifetime to represent the essential borough, the Bronx.”
Tonight, we made history.
It is the honor of a lifetime to represent the essential borough, the Bronx. pic.twitter.com/9ykMiWgYk3
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) November 4, 2020
Torres told NBC News in the past that running for office was “personal,” speaking about his experiences with homophobia in politics. In June’s congressional primary, he ran against and defeated fellow New York City Council member Rubén Diaz Sr., known for his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. “Look, the triumph of an openly LGBTQ congressional candidate over a leading homophobic in state politics — that to me represents long-overdue poetic justice. What better way to celebrate Pride Month than to defeat the politics of homophobia?” Torres told CBS.
Jones — whose father is Puerto Rican and mother is African-American — was raised in New York by his single mother and his grandparents. He attended Stanford University and Harvard Law and served in the Justice Department during the Obama administration. He’s been open about his mental health struggles sharing that he contemplated suicide 12 years ago and later he shared how it’s tied to his coming out experience. “The process of coming out, the integrity that it demands from you … has taught me how to be more open and honest about my struggle with depression. It teaches you an ethic of radical authenticity,” he told Buzzfeed News.
.@NYCCouncil Puerto Rican Heritage event tonight honored leaders who have made significant contributions to the #PuertoRican community. Victor Martinez co-founded Diaspora for Puerto Rico & is on the front lines of serving the Puerto Rican community in #NYC. TY for your service! pic.twitter.com/JZR7OLmiqN
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) November 14, 2019
As a congressman representing South Bronx he told NBC in 2019 he needed to be the most “visible and vocal champion” for the poor and working-class with South Bronx being one of the poorest districts in the country. Ritchie grew up in a public housing project in East Bronx and when he was 10 they began building a golf course across the street that would eventually be operated by Donald Trump. Despite a great need for funding for homes, this golf course with Trump at the helm was a representation of what those in power were choosing to put money into and that clearly made an impression.
“If you are on a mission to fight racially concentrated poverty, if you are on a mission to lift the lives of working people in the poorest parts of our country like the South Bronx, then you have to be a policymaker on the national stage, because Washington, D.C., is where the rules are set,” he told NBC in 2019.