03/19/2013 10:55 am ET Updated May 19, 2013

The Most Influential Latino Staffers on Capitol Hill

Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill have to put up with long hours and low wages.  Theirs are among the most-thankless but essential jobs in Washington politics.  While Members of Congress are not required to report demographic details on staffers, independent studies have consistently shown that among Capitol Hill staffers, Latinos remain sparse -- especially in leadership positions. Just last month, Roll Call released its "Fabulous 50" list of Capitol Hill's leading staffers. There were again no Latinos on the list.

But the demographics of Capitol Hill are changing with the times. Thanks to hiring initiatives by groups like Congressional Hispanic Staff Association (CHSA), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), and Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI), Latinos are arriving and advancing in significant congressional staffer positions.  Here are eleven Latinos staffers on Capitol Hill (listed alphabetically by first name) who are leading the way --   

  • Angela Arboleda is Senior Policy Advisor for Hispanic and Asian Affairs for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Since joining Reid's office nearly 5 years ago, Arboleda has helped it become a quiet but significant curator for Latino talent in Washington.  Formerly of NCLR, in 2004 Arboleda co-wrote Lost Opportunities -- one of the first books to focus on Latinos in the criminal justice system.  
  • Arthur Estopinan is not only Chief of Staff to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, "but also a friend and trusted counselor," according to the longtime congresswoman from Florida.  Estopinan has been Ros-Lehtinen's Chief of Staff for 18 years during which time he has traveled all over the world for work on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which Ros-Lehtinen chairs. In 2010, Estopinan won Fundación Azteca's prestigious "Outstanding Achievement Award" for his two decades of service and leadership on Capitol Hill.
  • Cesar Conda is Chief of Staff to Senator Marco Rubio.  Formerly, the top domestic policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, Conda was one of Rubio's closest advisors during his election campaign for U.S. Senate.  Later, Conda helped Rubio transition from the Tea Party candidate to the rising Latino statesman who has led this year's immigration reform turnaround in the Republican Senate.  As Rubio continues to skyrocket into the national political spotlight, the stakes are higher than ever for Conda and his staff.
  • Eloy Martinez is Staff Director of Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.  Formerly the Government Relations Director at TerreCom, Martinez first earned his professional stripes coordinating political events in Washington.  Now on the Hill, he is responsible for promoting the Democratic Senatorial Caucus' policies and initiatives through high-profile summits, roundtable, and other outreach initiatives with the Senate's Democratic leadership.   
  • Jaime Lizarraga is Senior Adviser to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the most feared and respected women in Washington politics.  Lizarraga has spent more than 15 years on Capitol Hill in a variety of leadership positions -- perhaps most-notably on the Financial Services Committee where, in 2010, he was instrumental in spearheading the Wall Street reform bill for House Democrats. In addition to his legislative duties, Lizarraga's vast experience in Latino outreach makes him a key asset to Pelosi and the Democrats.
  • Jose Parra is Deputy Communications Director for the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. He is regarded as the 2nd most senior staffer in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's mighty press shop.  Parra came to the Hill after beginning his career as reporter in Miami.  He has since been instrumental in building and defining the relationship between the Senate Democrats and Hispanic media markets all over the country.  
  • Leon Fresco is Staff Director of Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Fresco and his staff have their hands full these days guiding the Senate's "Gang of 8" and helping to draft this year's historic immigration reform bill.  A graduate of Yale Law School and former Chesterfield Smith Fellow at the law firm Holland & Knight, Fresco was voted South Florida's Most Effective Pro Bono/Public Interest Lawyer for four consecutive years before coming to Washington to work on the Hill.  After adding on this year's immigration reform achievements, Fresco will have the unassailable resume of a Latino American power lawyer.
  • Mildred Otero is Chief Education Counsel for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  As the lead adviser on education policy in the Senate, Otero is navigating the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind and soon, the Higher Education Act. Otero's experience makes her well-suited for these challenges. In 2008, Otero served as an education adviser to then-Senator Hillary Clinton during her historic presidential campaign and has also worked as a Senior Policy Officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Patricia Tamez is Executive Director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  Formerly the Deputy Chief of Staff to Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), Tamez came up through Latino politics on the Hill.  This year, Tamez will have her hands full.  In addition to the range of policy issues addressed by Latino legislators in the House of Representatives, the Hispanic Caucus is a key ally to the White House during this year's immigration reform push.
  • Steve Haro is Chief of Staff to Senator Martin Heinrich from New Mexico. He joined the Senator's staff in 2008 when he was then-freshman Congressman Heinrich. He previously worked in Latino Rep. Xavier Becerra's (D-CA) leadership office as Press Secretary, Communications Director and Legislative Director where Hispanic Business Magazine named Haro as one of the country's 100 Most Influential Hispanics.
  • Veronica Duron is Legislative Aide to Senator Charles Schumer from New York. In the Senate, Duron works on education and health care policy issues. Prior to joining Senator Schumer's office, she helped Latino Rep. Solomon Ortiz shape his policy positions on education, housing, taxes, labor, and banking issues. This year, Duron was elected as Vice President of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association where her tireless efforts are essential to building Latino influence on Capitol Hill.

Clearly this list is not all-inclusive. Who are some other Latinos making waves on Capitol Hill? Lemme know in the comments or tweet @vato.