Ritchie John Torres is an American politician from New York. A member of the Democratic Party, Torres is the U.S. Representative for New York's 15th congressional district. The district covers most of the South Bronx. It is one of the smallest districts by area in the country, covering only a few square miles.
Torres served as the New York City Councilmember for the 15th district from 2013 to 2020. He was the first openly gay candidate to be elected to legislative office in the Bronx, and the council's youngest member. Torres chaired the Committee on Public Housing, and was a deputy majority leader. As chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee he focused on taxi medallion predatory loans, and the city's Third Party Transfer Program. In 2016, Torres was a delegate for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
In July 2019, Torres announced his bid for New York's 15th congressional district, to succeed Representative José E. Serrano. The district is one of the most Democratic leaning congressional districts in the country. Torres won the November 2020 general election, and assumed office on January 3, 2021. This made him and Mondaire Jones the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress. It also made Torres the first openly gay Afro Latino elected to Congress. As such, he is one of the nine co-chairs of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus in the 117th United States Congress.
Early life and education
Ritchie Torres was born on March 12, 1988, in the Bronx. Torres is Afro-Latino; his father is from Puerto Rico and his mother is African-American. He was raised by his mother in Throggs Neck Houses, a public housing project in the Throggs Neck neighborhood of the East Bronx, where he was frequently hospitalized for asthma as a result of the mold growing in their apartment. He said, of growing up economically disadvantaged in "slum conditions", "I was raised by a single mother who had to raise three children on minimum wage and I lived in conditions of mold and vermin, lead and leaks." His mother raised him, his twin brother, and their sister. He was upset by the $269 million city-subsidized Trump Golf Links built "across the street" in Ferry Point Park, rather than housing for struggling New Yorkers; the course was built on a landfill, took 14 years to be developed, and opened in 2015. He vowed then to fight for their well-being. In junior high he realized he was gay but did not come out, fearing homophobic violence.
He attended Herbert H. Lehman High School, served in the inaugural class of the Coro New York Exploring Leadership Program, and later worked as an intern in the offices of the mayor and the attorney general. He came out while a sophomore "during a schoolwide forum on marriage equality".
Torres enrolled at New York University, but dropped out at the beginning of his sophomore year, as he was suffering from severe depression. He struggled with suicidal thoughts based on his sexuality. As he recovered, Torres resumed working for council member James Vacca, eventually becoming Vacca's housing director. In that role, Torres conducted site inspections and documented conditions, ensuring critical housing issues were promptly and adequately addressed.