SPOILERS are ahead for House Of Cards Season 5, which is currently streaming on Netflix. By the fifth episode, Frank and Claire Underwood have manipulated the government into invoking the 12th Amendment — in which Congress selects president and VP. Frank reaches out for help from Alex Romero (played by James Martinez) a congressman from Arizona in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Is Alex Romero based on a real person?
In real American politics, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is composed of 75 representatives, led by co-chairs Rep. Raúl Grijalva (a Democrat from Arizona) and Rep. Mark Pocan (a Democrat from Wisconsin). There's a good chance Alex could be loosely based on either of the co-chairs of the caucus or any of the 75 representatives who are members, though the the House Of Cards showrunners have not indicated that there's any real inspiration behind the character.
According to the Congressional Progressive Caucus' website, the group is the largest caucus within the House Democratic Congress, making it a valuable group to have on your side when it comes to voting. So that's likely why Underwood reaches out to Alex in the fifth episode, asking him to sway his progressive bloc of representatives to vote Underwood. Later in the episode, Alex gets on Frank's bad side when he refuses to make it happen. In the next episode, Alex returns to wheel and deal with Doug Stamper, planting doubts about the loyalty of the Congressional Black Caucus and making it clear he wants the position of Minority Whip.
In the ninth episode of the season, Alex reports Rep. Terry Womack (leader of the Congressional Black Caucus) for spending $15,000 at a restaurant, causing Doug to respect Alex's relentless nature and call him a important ally to the Underwoods. But the representative butts heads with Stamper again when he asks for "the president's full attention," the immigration ban lifted, and more Medicare coverage for his constituents. Frank doesn't come through for Alex when it comes to Medicare, and they resume their maneuvering. Alex doesn't cower in the face of the Underwoods, so it should be interesting to see how the president and vice president — along with their emissary Doug — work with the outspoken congressman.
While Romero may not be modeled after a real politician, Martinez may look familiar to you. The actor has appeared in the Liam Neeson movie Run All Night, as well as on the TV series Queen of the South, The Mysteries of Laura, Aquarius, and Low Winter Sun.
Will Alex emerge as a serious threat to the Underwood presidency? The congressman doesn't seem to be backing down.