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Elections throw up diverse group of candidates

Updated November 08, 2018


Mazeda Uddin celebrates the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at La Boom night club in Queens on November 6, 2018 in New York City. — AFP
Mazeda Uddin celebrates the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at La Boom night club in Queens on November 6, 2018 in New York City. — AFP

THE results of the 2018 midterm election ushered in one of the most diverse groups of politicians in American history, bringing in a wave of governors, senators and representatives who will break decades or even centuries-long barriers when they are sworn in.

Many female Democratic House candidates who prevailed on Election Day ran in opposition to Trump or his policies. Several were first-time candidates. Republican women like Kristi Noem and Marsha Blackburn, on the other hand, made history but were reluctant to mention their gender on the campaign trail, preferring to focus on issues.

Though prominent figures like Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, failed to win their potentially historic elections, many candidates around the country became the first person of their gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation to be elected to their positions in their states, or in some cases, in the country.

Here they are:

• Ayanna Pressley: Massachusetts’ first black woman in Congress. Pressley’s seat in Congress was all but assured after she upset longtime Democratic incumbent Michael E. Capuano in Massachusetts’ 7th district. She won the general election after running unopposed.

• Marsha Blackburn: First woman elected to the Senate from Tennessee. Blackburn, a Republican member of Congress who aligned herself closely with Trump and his policies during this race, defeated popular former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen in a tight race by 10 points. She will take over the seat held by Senator Bob Corker, a frequent Trump critic.

• Jared Polis: The first openly gay man elected governor. Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy came out as gay while he was in office, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who is bisexual, won in 2016, but Jared Polis will be the first man to win a governorship as an out gay man. Polis has been in Congress since 2009.

• Jahana Hayes: Connecticut’s first black woman in Congress. Hayes, a teacher, becomes the first black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. She beat her opponent, Manny Santos, by 11 points.

• Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids: America’s first Native American women in Congress. Haaland has a long history in New Mexico state politics and working with native tribes. She was able to defeat her opponent, Janice Arnold Jones, by 22 points. Davids, a lawyer who will also be Kansas’ first openly gay member of Congress, defeated incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder by nine points in a state that was handily won by Trump in 2016.

• Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia: Texas’s first Latinas in Congress. Escobar, an El Paso County judge, and Garcia, a state senator and former Harris County commissioner, make history in a state that is nearly 40 per cent Hispanic or Latino, according to US Census data.

• Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: America’s youngest woman ever elected to Congress. At age 29, Ocasio Cortez of New York seizes the record from Republican Elise Stefanik, who was elected at age 30 in 2014. She became a progressive star after her upset primary victory over Republican Joseph Crowley, a high-ranking House Democrat.

• Kristi L. Noem: First female governor of South Dakota. During the campaign, the Republican acknowledged the historic potential of her candidacy, but preferred to focus on issues rather than gender. The current congresswoman beat her opponent, Billie Sutton, by four points.

• Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer: Iowa’s first women in the US House. Iowa has sent women to the Senate and governor’s mansions, but never to the House of Representatives. That changed on Tuesday, when these two women defeated Republican incumbents.

• Janet Mills: First female governor of Maine. Mills, currently the state’s attorney general, has won the governorship, checking another state off a long list that has never had a female chief executive.

—By arrangement with The Washington Post

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2018