Eduardo Lerma, CHAIR
Eduardo Lerma is the Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Verónica Escobar (TX-16). The El Paso native most recently served as Director of Outreach at the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, where he helped in the development of the Senate Democratic agenda. He also served as a liaison on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus on issues relevant to the Latino and Asian American communities. Prior to that, the Santa Clara University graduate spent nine years in the House of Representatives, including time as Deputy Chief of Staff and Homeland Security Legislative Assistant to former California Congresswoman Loretta Sánchez, as well as with the House Small Business Committee.
Emily Benavides is a Republican communications operative, with extensive statewide and presidential campaign experience in national and Hispanic media.
Benavides is currently serving as Senator Rob Portman's Communications Director, strategically advising him on his media presence in her home state of Ohio and nationwide.
Prior to joining Portman's Washington, DC Senate office, Benavides worked on the Jeb! 2016 presidential campaign as Traveling Press Secretary and Hispanic Communications Director. Throughout the 2016 primary, she managed Governor Jeb Bush's media booking, surrogate booking, and Hispanic media operations as well as managing media on the ground across the country while traveling with the candidate.
In 2014, she served as Communications Director for Governor Rick Snyder’s victorious re-election campaign in Michigan. In this capacity, she managed communications strategy for the campaign, building a content driven media engagement plan in coordination with a forward thinking digital campaign.
During the 2012 election cycle, Benavides was Florida Press Secretary and National Hispanic Press Secretary for the Romney campaign, and prior to that, Specialty Press Secretary for the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Benavides was named one of the 40 under 40: Latinos in American Politics in 2014 by The Huffington Post. They went on call her “one of the Republican Party's top Latina communications operatives.” In 2015, she was recognized by Cosmo for Latinas with a Fun, Fearless award for outstanding contributions in the political arena.
Benavides has also served as Communications Director for the Hispanic Leadership Network, an initiative of the American Action Network. She began her career on Capitol Hill as a staffer for Congressman Robert Aderholt of Alabama.
Jeyben Castro serves as Director in the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the U.S. House of Representatives. Created by law during the 116th Congress, the office works to develop and promote best practices for diversity and inclusion in areas such as personnel recruitment, retention, promotion and performance reviews. Mr. Castro leads outreach and engagement strategies to Republican members, committees and other House offices.
Mr. Castro’s prior experience on the Hill includes serving as Outreach Director for the United States Senate Republican Task Force on Hispanic Affairs under Senator Orrin Hatch. In this capacity, he worked with Senate Republican offices to forge strategic alliances with community-based organizations and leaders across the country to address, educate and create solutions to issues impacting the Hispanic community.
In the private sector, Mr. Castro’s experience includes developing community-based initiatives and strengthening Hispanic engagement as a Senior Community Engagement Manager for a public utilities company and promoting corporate citizenship as a Public Affairs Manager for a Fortune 500 company.
A strong believer in public service and civic engagement, Mr. Castro proudly served ten years in the U.S. Navy and in 2012 joined the Republican National Committee as one of six Hispanic Outreach Directors in charge of the Hispanic Vote for the Presidential election. In 2013, Mr. Castro joined the team at Leadership Institute (LI), one of the nation’s premier organizations responsible for training activists, students and leaders. He continues his commitment to youth civic engagement as a volunteer faculty member at LI.
Mr. Castro was born in El Sauce, Nicaragua and migrated to Miami, Florida when he was ten years old. He serves as a board member of the Latino Student Fund and the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute at George Washington University. He currently lives in Maryland and is a graduate of George Mason University.
Veronica serves as the Legislative Director to Senator Cory Booker (NJ). Duron served in various capacities in the offices of former Congressman Solomon Ortiz and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer prior to her current post with Senator Booker. Veronica has been an active member of CHSA during her tenure on Capitol Hill, serving as President and Vice President of the Executive Board and lending her professional acumen to all staffers. She was recently honored by the Hispanic Lobbyists Association with the Avanza Trailblazer Award for demonstrating leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion on Capitol Hill.
Javier Gamboa is Senior Professional Staff Member for the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and has worked in the U.S. Congress for over ten years.
Javier got his start on Capitol Hill in 2008 as an intern for his then home state senator, Senator Barbara Boxer of California. His first job was as Staff Assistant for Chairman Boxer at the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works where he assisted the committee’s efforts as it passed landmark climate and energy legislation. Following his tenure at the committee, Javier moved across the Capitol to work for Congresswoman Kathy Castor (FL-14) as Energy Policy Analyst and Legislative Assistant. After several years, Javier then served as Legislative Director to Congresswoman Nanette Barragan (CA-44) during her first term. He then joined the team at The Trust for Public Land as Senior Legislative Representative and one year later, returned to public service at the beginning of the 116th congress as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for freshman Representative Jeff Van Drew (NJ-2).
Javier, a native Spanish speaker, was born and raised in San Diego, CA and is a proud alumnus of Cal State Fullerton and of the California State University D.C. Internship Program. He lives in Wheaton, MD with his wife and their two dogs, Bear and Blanca.
Marsha (Catron) Espinosa is a government and communications professional in Washington DC and currently serves as the Chief of Staff to Rep. Linda Sanchez. Previously, she co-founded a consulting firm specializing in crisis communications and prime time prep. She has also served as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs under President Obama and spent several years working on Capitol Hill for California members Senator Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Linda Sánchez and Nanette Diaz-Barragan. A proud “Nuevo Mexicana,” she started her career in communications working for then-Governor Bill Richardson and later on his 2008 presidential campaign. Espinosa graduated from New Mexico State University and received a Masters of Arts in Communication Studies from Texas State University.
Eduardo Hilera currently serves on the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control as a Legislative Assistant to Co-Chairman Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA). Eduardo’s career has been focused on homeland security, law enforcement, and public safety policy at the federal and state level. Prior to his service in the United States Senate, Eduardo served as Senior Advisor to the Puerto Rico Secretary of the Treasury where he developed a plan to restructure the tax fraud and intelligence division, as well as a task force program with the US Coast Guard Investigative Service in San Juan. Eduardo also served on the staff of former Congressman Pedro Pierluisi (PR) for almost seven years, four of which were spent as a Legislative Assistant in Washington D.C.
Eduardo has served as an advisor on six political campaigns, including Obama for America in 2008 and Pierluisi for Governor in 2016, as a senior advisor to the Campaign Director and chair of the public safety and law enforcement platform team.
Eduardo is of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, and was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He completed his undergraduate degree in Political Science at Penn State University, a National Security Strategy Certificate from National Defense University and is currently enrolled in Georgetown University’s Emergency and Disaster Management Master’s Program.
Michele Exner is currently serving as the Communications Director for House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23). In this role, she helps to lead a press team in crafting the Leader’s communication strategy to further his vision for national and district priorities.
Prior to returning to Capitol Hill, she worked as the Director of Communications for CBS News' Washington, D.C. bureau where she oversaw all media-related matters affecting the major network, in addition to working on promotion efforts for their Sunday flagship public affairs program, "Face the Nation."
From June 2016 through June 2018, Michele was the Press Secretary for Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). She was the on-the-record spokesperson for the senator and spearheaded the development of press-specific strategies, including booking interviews and developing statements/releases.
Before beginning her civilian career, she served as an active duty Marine from 2007 through 2014 as a Public Affairs Officer. From 2008 to 2011, Michele was homebased at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During her time there she went on two overseas deployments: 10-month deployment to Al Anbar Province with 2nd Marine Logistics Group in 2008 and a 6-month deployment in 2010 where she worked as the staff assistant to the commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) in Djibouti, Africa.
During her time on active duty, Michele also returned to her alma mater in 2012 to serve as a Company Officer at the United States Naval Academy. She served as a mentor and leader to more than 300 students during her tenure.
Michele is a native of Hoboken, NJ and first generation American. She graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy where she earned a BS in Economics. She also has an MPS from the University of Maryland in Leadership, Education, and Development.
Juan Hinojosa is the Chief of Staff for Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois’ 5th Congressional District, which includes most of Chicago’s North Side. He has served in that role since 2013. As Chief of Staff, Juan directs the congressman’s legislative, communications and political strategies. Congressman Quigley is a member of the House Appropriations Committee where he serves as the Chairman of the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee. He is also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which provides oversight for the U.S. intelligence community.
Before joining Congressman Quigley’s office, Juan consulted for the government relations firm Strategies 360. Previously, he served on the legislative staffs of several congressional Democrats including Bobby Bright (AL-02), Brad Ellsworth (IN-08) and Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN).
Juan is originally from Indiana and he earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana University in the History of American Foreign Relations.
Bianca Ortiz Wertheim
Bianca has over 20 years of experience working in political and policy focused organizations. Originally from Nambé, a small town north of Santa Fe, NM, Bianca started in New Mexico politics and community organizing. She received her Bachelors of Arts from the University of Oklahoma and her MBA from the University of New Mexico, Anderson School of Management. Bianca had the honor of working as a field organizer for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman in his successful re-election campaign.
Continuing her interest in public policy and community organizing, Bianca served as a past president of MANA de Albuquerque. She worked with the American Cancer Society as Director of Government Relations for New Mexico. She served in New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s Administration as Director of Cabinet Affairs, where she was the primary liaison between Governor Richardson and his full cabinet.
Following her appointment with Governor Richardson, Bianca worked for Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez as his Legislative Affairs Representative and later as his Chief of Staff.
Bianca joined the Office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall (NM) in 2009 as his State Director. In the fall of 2015, Bianca became the senator’s Chief of Staff, making her the second Latina to serve as a Chief of Staff in the U.S. Senate. She currently serves as an honorary co-host of the Bipartisan Chiefs of Staff Foreign Affairs Study Group.
Carlos Paz Jr. currently serves as Chief of Staff for Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26). Carlos most recently served as Hispanic Media Director and Press Secretary for Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Deputy Chief of Staff & Communications Director to Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (now the first Latina Democratic Governor of New Mexico). The first-generation American and Houstonian also led the communications shop for hometown Congressman Gene Green after victorious political efforts as Hillary Clinton’s State Lead during the 2016 Texas presidential primary and campaign manager for city-wide campaigns in Houston. His career is rooted in his time in community and international development working to increase access to education, health care, and economic opportunity in neighborhoods from the gulf coast of Texas to the highlands of Papua New Guinea. He has been involved with the National Hispanic Institute for 20 years and last year he was named NHI Person of the Year. He’s an avid traveler and runner.
Noel Perez serves as the Director of Outreach for the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. One of two Democratic Leadership Committees in the Senate, the Committee serves as a liaison and fosters dialogue between Senate Democratic offices and leaders from key stakeholder groups.
Perez was previously the Policy and Program Manager at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, where he served as the first-ever lead for Staff Up Congress, an initiative to increase staff diversity in Congress. Before joining NALEO, Perez served as an Adviser for Member Services and Outreach for the House Democratic Caucus, where he worked for every Democratic member of the House of Representatives and as a Legislative Aide for former Congressman and current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Noel received his start on Capitol Hill when he was selected to participate in the Panetta Institute for Public Policy Congressional Internship Program in Washington, D.C. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Noel holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from California State University, East Bay.
Angela Ramirez is the Chief of Staff to the House Assistant to the Speaker, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (NM-03). Longtime Chief of Staff in Luján’s personal office, Angela brings with her a depth of knowledge and broad Capitol Hill experience to the leadership team. Angela has worked as Luján’s chief of staff since 2009 and was influential during Luján’s time as the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Angela also served as the executive director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for two years. Angela is a graduate of Princeton University where she studied political economy and received a certificate in Spanish.
Dayanara Ramirez is the Communications Director for Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41) and serves on the Board of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and the Democratic Digital Communications Staff Association. She is also an organizer for the Digital Academy and helps train the next generation of congressional digital experts.
Dayanara started a career in communications as a press intern in the Office of Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51) after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2016. Dayanara is a proud first-generation American from California, speaks and writes in Spanish with bilingual proficiency, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Political Science.
As a queer Latina in a senior staff role, Dayanara is helping uplift the next generation of LGBTQ+ and Latinx staffers.
Joleen C. Rivera
Joleen currently serves as Senator Cortez Masto’s (D-NV) Legislative Director and Chief Counsel where she oversees the Senator’s legislative agenda across five Senate committees. Joleen specializes in immigration, judiciary, civil rights, government oversight and labor issues. Previously, Joleen served as Legislative Director for Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) and as a Policy Counsel with the Women’s Refugee Commission. Additionally, Joleen worked at the AFL-CIO advocating for low-wage workers and represented workers in employment discrimination cases. She holds a JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Miguel R. Salazar
Miguel R. Salazar is currently the Communications Director for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs serving under the leadership of Chairman Mark Takano. He previously served as the Communications Director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus under Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham and Chairman Joaquin Castro. Prior to that he was the Communications Director for Congressman Ruben J. Kihuen and served as the National Press Secretary for the House Democratic Caucus under Chairman Xavier Becerra. He is a graduate of The George Washington University, a native of San Antonio, Texas, and a Captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
Caitlin Soto is Investigative Counsel for Chairman Chuck Grassley (IA) of the Senate Finance Committee and works on healthcare oversight and investigation matters. She previously served as Health Counsel to former Chairman Orrin Hatch (UT) before he retired at the end of the 115th Congress. She’s a graduate of the American University and the Catholic University Columbus School of Law. She’s Cuban-American and originally from Fort Lauderdale, FL.