The US presidential election has shown us how large a number of citizens want and approve of a President like Trump. Having gained a little under half of the majority votes, it is disheartening just how many supporters he has. However, local and state elections have sparked hope. American citizens have chosen diversity, have accepted the importance of representation, and are willing to take a stand for it. State governments across the country ahve welcomed a growing list of strong-willed individuals who are ready to speak up for all people. Having representatives that accurately match the nation’s diverse population is vital for growth and for ensuring that every voice is heard.
Women across the country in particular are taking a stand and running for government positions, taking steps to create a US government that accurately represents its people. An unprecedented 318 women were running as Democratic or Republican candidates for the 470 seats available, across the House of Representatives and the Senate. Out of these, 117 are women of color. Here are some winners who made history this past week.
Cori Bush was just elected to Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, making her the first black Congresswoman in Missouri’s history. Her platform includes Medicare for all, criminal justice reform, and a $15 federal minimum wage. A vocal supporter of the BLM movement, she cast her vote while wearing a mask with ‘Breonna Taylor’ printed on it. Her tweet on November 4th reflects her intention to take the BLM movement forward, from the streets to the Congressional halls.
Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones
In New York, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones defeated their Republican challengers to become the first openly gay Black members of Congress in their respective New York districts. Torres will also be the first openly gay Latino member in Congress. Jones’ district covers Rockland County and parts of Westchester, while Torres’s district is in the Bronx.
Jabari Brisport is the first openly queer person of color to join the New York state Legislature, after running unopposed. After declaring victory in the Democratic primary in June, he ran unopposed on Election Day. His first interaction with the New York State Senate was around 11 years ago, when he tried to get them to pass same-sex marriage. His election is another step forward in representation for people of color and for the LGBTQ+ community.
Shevrin Jones and Michele Rayner-Goolsby
Florida has also made history by electing two Black queer politicians to serve in its state legislature. Shevrin Jones has become the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to the state senate. He claimed his victory in the race in Miami. Though he didn’t face a Republican, he triumphed over his anti-LGBT+ opponents in the Democratic primary. Michele Rayner-Goolsby will become the first openly LGBTQ+ woman to serve in the Florida house of representatives. Her victory was a huge step forward for women of color, in addition to the LGBTQ+ community. She’s the first openly Black queer woman ever elected in Florida at any level. Thanks to a team anchored by men and women of color, she secured a victory by simply being herself. It’s a fantastic message to send to America’s youth, and I am here for it.
Meanwhile, Vermont has elected their first openly transgender member of the state Legislature. Taylor Small was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives. She’s hopeful that her election will guide the way for other young queer and trans people, and show that there is space in leadership and in politics for their voices.
Hawaii’s newest member of Congress will definitely bring in new views to the U.S House of Representatives. Kai Kahele, the 46 year old state senator won the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Tulsi Gabbard, late Tuesday night. Raised in Miloli, a fishing village in Hawaii, Kahele is a grounded Native Hawaiian, and a proud American. Joining Ed Case, the two men will help serve Hawaii’s interests in Congress.
Oklahoma, too, has taken steps to ensure all voices are heard. Mauree Turner became the first nonbinary state legislator in US history, and the first Muslim lawmaker in Oklahoma. Turner identifies as non-binary, and uses both they/she as pronouns, according to their Twitter profile. As an activist, community organizer, and Oklahoman, Turner has spent most of their life fighting for issues like immigration rights, racial justice, and social justice. On their campaign site, they write about their experiences as a Black Muslim American Queer Womxn in Oklahoma. Feeling like they weren’t seen or heard by lawmakers, their campaign ran on a platform of driving conversations on what inclusive representation looks like.
Deb Haaland, Yvette Herrell, and Teresa Leger Fernandez
New Mexico also embraced much-needed and much-welcomed change this year. It’s become the first state to elect all women of color to its House delegation. Democratic incumbent Representative Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo Tribe, won reelection to her House Seat. She also made history in 2018 as one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez also won the state’s 3rd Congressional District. Republican Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee nation, won her challenge against the Democratic representative, Xochitl Torress, in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. “Tonight the people of New Mexico have chosen hope over fear, love over hate, community over division”, Haaland tweeted.
The Squad Gets Reelected
Another sweeping victory for women of color is the re-election of the Squad – Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. The four lawmakers have lit up the left’s progressive base and social media, and their strong stances have attracted controversy and President Trump’s ire. None of the incumbents faced significant challenges in their reelection bids this year, cementing their popularity and continued work in politics.
Another big step for the transgender community took place in Delaware recently. Democratic activist Sarah Mcbride will become the first openly transgender state senator in US history after her election in Delaware. Working as a former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, she beat the Republican candidate Steve Washington in Delaware’s 1st District. This also makes her Delaware’s first out LGBTQ+ person elected to the state’s legislature.
In Georgia’s fifth congressional district, Democrat Nikema Williams, a Black woman and chair of the state’s Democratic party, beat her Republican opponent, Angela Stanton-King. She is the first woman to serve as a representative in Georgia’s fifth congressional district. Her victory is in a district once held by the civil rights activist and icon, John Lewis.
Cynthia Lummis and Maria Elvia Salazar
Republican candidate Cynthia Lummis won the Senate race in Wyoming, and Maria Elvira Salazar winning the race for Congressional District 27 in Florida. Maria was a longtime broadcast journalist and is a Cuban American. Women, especially women of color, are joining the political line-up across the board, inspired by those that came before them. We’re seeing actual waves of change over the years, and we can see a significant uptick in women working in politics, in either party.
Torrey Harris and Eddie Mannis
Two new state legislators made Tennessee history with their victories. Harris and Mannis will be the state’s first openly LBGTQ+ representatives to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly. Until Tuesday, Tennessee was one of just five states in the US to not have an openly LGBTQ+ person in their state legislature. Democrat Torrey Harris will represent a Memphis district, and Republican Eddie Mannis will represent a Knoxville district.
Broward County turning key offices to Black candidates
Florida’s bluest county, Broward, also made history this election cycle. Harold Pryor became the state’s first Black attorney. He is an advocate for criminal justice reform, which is perfect for a time when protests surrounding the issue rocked the nation. Democrat Joe Scott won the election for supervisor of elections, and Gregory Tony was elected as the Broward County sheriff. Black candidates won every county-wide race in Broward County, Florida. Despite the fact that only 20 percent of the county’s population is Black, the people of Broward voted for change and for a new way of thinking.
It’s heartwarming to see that American citizens are ready to take steps forward. The people are ready to accept diversity, and welcome changes at the local and the state level. The US presidential election has shown us that lot of people still prefer a president who is crass, racist, sexist, misogynistic, anti-science and frankly, immature. The local and state elections, on the other hand, have shown us that Americans are letting go of prejudice and walking toward a more inclusive future.
Charles Dickens once said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” American politics is a reflection of this – they’ve made great strides forward and yet half the people want to take a step back at the same time. These representatives stand for hope and change. It’s inspiring to see representatives from all walks of life step into politics and help their fellow people, despite the hatred that came from the White House for four years. I’m grateful to know that America hasn’t fallen to the dangers of nationalism and prejudice yet, that fairness can prevail.
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