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Ritchie Torres becomes 1st gay Black man to be elected to Congress

Democrat candidate Ritchie Torres defeated Republican candidate Patrick Delices in New York's 15th District.
Ritchie Torres, the Democratic nominee for New York's 15th Congressional District, speaks to the media on Tuesday in the Bronx.Adam Hunger / AP
/ Source: TODAY

Democratic challenger Ritchie Torres has become the first openly gay Black man to be elected to Congress after winning New York state's 15th Congressional District.

Torres, who in 2013 was elected to the New York City Council at the age of 25, replaces Rep. Jose Serrano, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

Torres will enter the house in January after defeating his opponent, Republican Patrick Delices. The Bronx district that the two men were campaigning in historically supports Democrats and is the nation's poorest in terms of median household income.

Torres told NBC News in the past that running for office was "personal," speaking about his experiences with homophobia in politics. During his campaign, he made affordable housing a key policy.

"I feel like if I'm going to be a congressman who represents the South Bronx, I have to be the most visible and vocal champion of the urban poor and of working people," said Torres, who grew up in public housing, in a 2019 interview with NBC News.

"If you are on a mission to fight racially concentrated poverty, if you are on a mission to lift the lives of working people in the poorest parts of our country like the South Bronx, then you have to be a policymaker on the national stage, because Washington, D.C., is where the rules are set," he said.

Torres' victory was celebrated on social media by the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD.

Mondaire Jones, another gay Black man, is expected to win his Congressional race in New York's 17th District, replacing retiring representative Nita Lowey. The NBC News Decision Desk has not called the race yet.

Mondaire Jones, the Democratic nominee in New York's 17th Congressional District, speaks at a Black Lives Matter rally on Oct. 11 in Irvington, N.Y.Kevin Hagen / AP

Jones is campaigning against Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman. Like Torres, Jones has said in the past that "policy is personal."

“Growing up — struggling with my self-acceptance — if I had been able to look to an example like what I would provide, someone who is a respectable individual, an openly gay black man in Congress, life would have been a lot better for me," Jones told NBC News in Nov. 2019.

Several other groundbreaking politicians have been elected to Congress over the past several years. In 2012, Rep. Mark Takano became the first openly gay person of color in Congress, while Rep. Sharice Davids, elected in 2018, is the first openly gay woman of color.

Sarah McBride, a state Senate candidate from Delaware, won her 2020 race, making her the first and only openly transgender state senator in the United States.