By Tuesday’s end, just 395 votes separated Democrat Ricky Hurtado from GOP Incumbent Stephen Ross in the 63rd NC House District. It was a close race, but a big win. 

Hurtado, 31, is a Princeton graduate, the son of Salvadoran immigrants, and a first-generation college graduate. He currently teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill and ran on a platform that emphasized public education and promised teachers higher pay. Over the course of his campaign, he secured nominations from Democratic heavyweights like Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

Rep. Stephen Ross has represented District 63 since 2013. 

“Alamance County has spoken—it is time to chart a new path forward for our community,” Hurtado wrote on Facebook just after midnight. 

The central North Carolina district, which sits in the eastern half of North Carolina, is a Republican stronghold with a population of about 75,550. It includes the cities of Burlington, Graham, and Mebane. 

Shortly after Hurtado announced his bid for the district in March, COVID-19 forced him to reimagine the campaign. Both Hurtado and his wife Yazmin García would contracted the virus in mid-June (they recovered by July), and over the summer, Alamance County reached a boiling point when police came down hard on demonstrators protesting downtown Graham’s confederate monument. 

“I want the 21,000 Latinos in Alamance County to know they’re very much part of the conversation here,” Hurtado told the Associated Press in September. 

Racial tensions run deep in Graham. County Sheriff Terry Johnson—one of the state’s longest-serving sheriffs—was sued by the Justice Department in 2012 for alleged discriminatory policing and unconstitutional searches and seizures. He joins notorious Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio as one of only two sheriffs in the country to be sued by the Obama Justice Department (Arpaio was later pardoned by Trump).

The 2012 suit alleged that Johnson had used racial epithets in instructions to subordinates, including “Go out there and catch me some Mexicans” and “Go out there and get me some of those taco-eaters.”

A district court threw out the suit in 2016, but the allegations didn’t deter Johnson, who entered into a $2 million contract with ICE, in 2019, in addition to asking for a costly jail expansion

Last weekend, police officers deployed tear gas in downtown Graham on a group marching to the polls. Fifteen people were arrested, and the incident quickly sparked national outrage

Hurtado’s victory is enormous given these circumstances, but the appointment is also a statewide milestone. With it, Hurtado becomes the first Democrat Latino in the state elected to the State House of Representatives.

“I want to make sure we are not just opening that door but breaking it down,” Hurtado told Rolling Stone in an interview in October, adding that he hoped that his campaign could become a “pipeline” for Latinx youth who hoped to run for office someday. 

As a migrant population expands and more suburbanites move out of the Triangle to more affordable outer regions, the county’s politics are also beginning to shift. 

“We feel the racism and division but also know there are good people here,” Alamance County resident Cheryl Harvey told the INDY at an election day march to the polls that retraced the steps of the Saturday march that had ended in chaos. At this event, tensions were high but the police held back. 

Just a few hours after the march to the polls dispersed, Hurtado’s team got the news that he had won. 

“I’m going to Raleigh to fight for Medicaid expansion and funding our public schools,” Hurtado continued in last night’s Facebook post. “There is so much work to do for our community, and I’m ready to represent all of my constituents in the General Assembly. Together, we spent 16 months building this campaign from the ground up.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Ricky Hurtado is the first Latino elected to the State House of Representatives. Hurtado is the first Latino Democrat candidate to be elected in the House. 

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One reply on “Ricky Hurtado Becomes the First Latino Democrat Candidate Elected to North Carolina State House”

  1. Please look at a map or talk to someone who is from NC and understands our cultural regions.

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