Cabinet picks help, hurt Hispanics political gains

Noriega and Van de Putte say that favors wealthy or well-connected candidates — such as Bill White, an independently wealthy Democratic mayor of Houston, who just announced his intention to seek a Senate seat in Texas. Hispanics make up 35.5% of the state's population.

Two Hispanic members of Congress, Reps. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., took themselves out of the running for two Senate vacancies created by the incoming Obama administration. Velázquez told New York Gov. David Paterson not to consider her for the seat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will leave to become secretary of State, and Gutierrez declined consideration for Obama's seat.

Van de Putte said she's thinking about running for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, and that party leaders who argue she doesn't have enough financial backing won't faze her. Hers is a confidence inspired by the 2008 election.

Said Van de Putte, "The days of women and minorities asking permission are gone."

Contributing: Haya El Nasser in McLean, Va.

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