Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto


Victoria is Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a contributor to MSNBC and Telemundo. Her areas of expertise in the domestic policy landscape include immigration, Latinos, women and childcare, and economic equity. more→


Victoria brings an interdisciplinary lens to understanding policy development and its intersection with institutional and political contexts. Underlying her academic work is the applicability of rigorous research to on-the-ground policy realities.

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Recent Media

This post originally appeared on NBCLatino.

The proximate departure of Secretaries Solis and Salazar will represent a 0.0 level of Latino representation in President Obama’s top Cabinet posts.

For Latinos to not be at the table when it comes to the highest levels of leadership is wrong.  Latinos are a large and growing national voice and we have a wealth of talented and experienced leaders to step up.  So the easy answer is we need Latino voices at the table; the hard part is how many and in what positions.

But first, a little background.

As he was handed the phone, San Antonio county commissioner Albert Peña heard Bobby Kennedy on the other end asking for his help in getting the Latino vote.  It was the summer of 1960, and the Kennedy presidential campaign was seeking the support of the Latino electorate in what later took the form of the first ever national Latino outreach, Viva Kennedy.  Peña did not commit right away, but only after Bobby Kennedy accepted several conditions, one of which was considering Mexican Americans to high-level appointments in the new administration.

John F. Kennedy won that presidential election by the slimmest of margins, less than one percent of the total vote margin.  And the states that had the closest vote margins, Texas, California, Illinois and New Mexico, were also the states that had extremely high Latino participation and support for JFK.  However, by early 1961 it became painfully apparent to the Viva organizers that the appointment of Latinos to the administration had fallen off the radar.

It wasn’t until 1988 under the Reagan administration that the first Latino cabinet member, Lauro Cavazos, was named.  Secretary of Education Cavazos stayed on with George Bush for a couple of years, but no new Latinos were appointed to the presidential cabinet.

Clinton’s administration marked a watershed in the role of Latinos in presidential administrations.  He named three Latinos to his cabinet and named dozens of Latinos to administrative appointments.  George W. Bush and then Barack Obama have followed a similar pattern, give or take a couple appointments.

Seems not a whole lot has changed in fifty years.  Latinos provide a crucial electoral push but once in office, Latino appointments do not reflect their electoral effort. (more…)