Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1992, 12th term.

Born: March 28, 1953, Yabucoa, PR

Home: Brooklyn, NY

Education: U. of PR, B.A. 1974, N.Y.U., M.A. 1976

Professional Career: Instructor, U. of PR, 1976–81; Adjunct prof., Hunter Col., 1981–83; Special asst., U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns, 1983; Migration dir., PR Dept. of Labor & Human Resources, 1986–89; Secy., PR Dept. of Community Affairs in the U.S., 1989–92.

Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Paul Bader)

Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat elected in 1992, is the ranking Democrat on the Small Business Committee and the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress. Her nickname is "La Luchadora" -- "The Fighter."

She grew up in Puerto Rico as one of nine children of sugarcane field workers. Although her father never finished elementary school, he was a political leader in her hometown of Yabucoa and inspired her to pursue politics as a career. She studied political science at the University of Puerto Rico and taught there in the 1970s. After graduate school in New York City, she went to work for Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York. In 1983, she became the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the New York City Council.

When the 12th District was created in 1992, Velázquez was a major contender in the Democratic primary but had to overcome Rep. Stephen Solarz, who had decided to run in the new district rather than in the Manhattan-dominated 8th or in the 9th District, where incumbent Democrat Charles Schumer had a heavy advantage. Velázquez got the endorsements of Mayor David Dinkins and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and in a light turnout election, beat Solarz 34% to 28%. After the primary, confidential hospital records leaked to a New York tabloid indicated that in September 1991, Velázquez had attempted suicide, was hospitalized and underwent counseling. Evidently, it was of little concern to voters. She won in November with 77% of the vote.

In the House, Velázquez has a solidly liberal voting record, with occasional pro-business votes on economic issues. On the Small Business Committee, she has sought to ensure small businesses get attention as the country emerges from recession. In 2014, she sponsored legislation aimed in particular at helping women-owned small businesses secure federal contracts, and in 2015 she introduced another bill to reopen the Small Business Administration's disaster loan program.

As the panel’s chairman in March 2009, she praised the Obama administration for requiring the nation’s largest banks to report monthly on how much lending they do to small businesses. But she also criticized an administration proposal in early 2010 to give $30 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to community banks for small business, but without any conditions that the money actually be used for small business loans. “Taking $30 billion and simply handing it to banks — in the hopes that they will make loans — is not sound policy,” she said. The administration dropped the idea of using TARP money.

One of Velázquez’s chief goals on the panel was to get into law a reauthorization for the SBA, whose last long-term authorization expired in 2006. But she and her counterparts in the Senate were unable to come to agreement after working on separate versions, and the agency’s programs were reauthorized under a series of short-term extensions. She even tried to move four job-producing bills that contained parts of the SBA reauthorization bill. It easily passed the House in October 2009, but languished in the Senate.

During the Bush administration, Velázquez joined with Republican committee Chairman Don Manzullo of Illinois to reinstate a SBA loan program that had guaranteed lenders a 75% return if a borrower defaulted on loans of up to $750,000. The White House insisted on abolishing the SBA subsidy and funding the program with higher fees to borrowers and lenders.In 2004, Manzullo and Velázquez won approval to add $79 million to the SBA budget to support the loan program, although some fees were also increased. Velázquez also initiated an annual scorecard to show whether the federal government had met its goal of granting 23% of contracts to small businesses.

In 2005, the SBA Office of Advocacy found that the agency had miscoded a significant number of loans to small divisions of large firms and had counted them as small business loans. Velázquez accused the Bush administration of “cooking the books.” The following year, she revealed that the government had miscoded $12 billion in contracts and that only 22% of contracts went to small businesses. She also charged that the SBA repeatedly fell short of its goal of granting 5% of loans to women. After a government report pointed to chaotic service and a loan approval process that lagged behind demand, she called on SBA Administrator Hector Barreto to resign, and in 2006, he complied.

Velázquez has been a leading voice on issues related to Puerto Rico and the ongoing debate over changing the commonwealth’s status. She favors a process that would allow the people of Puerto Rico to determine the status of the island, and has authored legislation authorizing a constitutional convention which would produce a recommendation that would then be subject to a referendum. The results would be submitted to Congress for approval. In the 1990s, Velázquez strongly advocated clemency for several members of the FALN terrorist group who had sought Puerto Rican independence but were imprisoned for 19 years in the deaths of six people. When President Bill Clinton granted clemency in 1999, on condition that they renounce violence, Velázquez said that clemency should be unconditional. The House condemned the clemency move, 311-41.

In 2009, Velázquez became chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, an influential group of Hispanic House members. Her friendship with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has contributed to her rising influence. Velázquez lauded Obama’s choice of a woman with a Puerto Rican background, Sonia Sotomayor, to be the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice. But she subsequently pressed him for months to move comprehensive immigration reform higher on his agenda. When vehement GOP opposition made clear that such a battle was unwinnable, she worked to move the DREAM Act, a bill providing a path to legal status for the children of illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military. The House approved that bill in late 2010, but its Senate supporters could not reach the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster.

A longtime combatant in New York City’s political wars, Velázquez has won re-election easily every two years. She co-chaired incoming New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s transition team in 2010.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2361

(202) 226-0327

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2302
Washington, DC 20515-3207

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2361

(202) 226-0327

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2302
Washington, DC 20515-3207

DISTRICT OFFICE

(718) 599-3658

(718) 599-4537

266 Broadway Suite 201
Brooklyn, NY 11211-6125

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-2361

(202) 226-0327

266 Broadway Suite 201
Brooklyn, NY 11211-6125

DISTRICT OFFICE

(718) 222-5819

(718) 222-5830

16 Court Street Suite 1006
Brooklyn, NY 11241-1010

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-2361

(202) 226-0327

16 Court Street Suite 1006
Brooklyn, NY 11241-1010

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-2361

(202) 226-0327

500 Pearl Street Suite 973
New York, NY 10007

DISTRICT OFFICE

(212) 619-2606

(212) 473-5242

500 Pearl Street Suite 973
New York, NY 10007

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 225-2361

(202) 226-0327

315 Inspiration Lane
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

315 Inspiration Lane
Gaithersburg, NY 20878

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Michael Day
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Jonathan Martinez
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Michael Day
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Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Nydia Velázquez
Votes: 53,283
Percent: 89.0%
Jose Fernandez
Votes: 5,299
Percent: 8.85%
2012 GENERAL
Nydia Velázquez
Votes: 141,359
Percent: 94.76%
James Murray
Votes: 7,816
Percent: 5.24%
2012 PRIMARY
Nydia Velázquez
Votes: 17,208
Percent: 57.92%
Erik Dilan
Votes: 10,408
Percent: 35.03%
2010 GENERAL
Nydia Velázquez
Votes: 68,624
Percent: 93.79%
Alice Gaffney
Votes: 4,482
Percent: 6.13%
2010 PRIMARY
Nydia Velázquez
Unopposed
2008 GENERAL
Nydia Velázquez
Votes: 123,046
Percent: 89.95%
Allan Romaguera
Votes: 13,747
Percent: 10.05%
2008 PRIMARY
Nydia Velázquez
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (94%), 2008 (90%), 2006 (90%), 2004 (86%), 2002 (96%), 2000 (87%), 1998 (84%), 1996 (85%), 1994 (92%), 1992 (77%)

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