For the first time ever in many states, voters elected several candidates who are transgender, Muslim, Black, and/or Latinx to public office.
Although ballots are still being counted, the 2020 general election has already proven to be a historic moment for communities of color, immigrants, indigenous people, and the LGBTQ community. For the first time ever in many states, voters elected several candidates who are transgender, Muslim, Black, and/or Latinx to public office.
This is a significant shift in American politics, where historically, the legislative system did not accurately reflect or represent the population in the United States. With more women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ people elected into these positions of leadership, the country’s political system can better serve its increasingly diverse population.
Here are just a few of those newly elected lawmakers who have made history in this election.
Sarah McBride became the highest-ranking transgender politician in the United States Tuesday night after winning her state senate seat in Delaware’s District 1. She is also the first openly transgender woman elected into public office in her state.
In Vermont, voters sent Taylor Small, who pushed for a single-payer healthcare system, to represent them in the state legislature. The win makes the 26-year-old Winsooki resident the state’s first openly transgender lawmaker.
Kansas also elected its first openly trans—as well as indigenous—state legislator on Tuesday: Stephanie Byers is a retired high school band teacher who won the District 86 House seat. “For me, being transgender is just another aspect of who I am,” Byers told local media before she won her race. “I’m also a member of the Chickasaw Nation. I ride a motorcycle. I’m a musician. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education…. I do realize that it could be Kansas historic for me to be elected into office and have a person who is transgender serving in our legislature. But it’s not the main emphasis of what’s going on.”
In deep-red Oklahoma, Mauree Turner became the country’s first gender non-binary state lawmaker on Tuesday when voters elected her to the state House to represent District 88. Turner, who’s also the state’s first Muslim legislator, told reporters: “For me, this means a lot,” she said. “I have lived my whole life in the margins.”
Madinah Wilson-Anton of Delaware became the first Muslim-American elected into the state legislature. The hijabi lawmaker, who campaigned on a more progressive agenda than her opponent, will represent the 26th District in the state House. “People want progressive change, and the establishment has not given us that,” she said during her campaign.
Several members of the gay and lesbian community—many of whom identify as persons of color—also achieved incredible milestones in their respective states.
Kim Jackson, an Episcopal priest, became the first out lesbian elected into Georgia’s state Senate. Shevrin Jones became the first openly gay state senator in Florida. He will be one of two openly gay Black male state senators in the US; Jabari Brisport, a former public school teacher of Caribbean-American descent, will also share that distinction representing New York’s 25th District.
Florida voters also elected Michele Rayner-Goolsby to become the first Black queer woman in the state legislature, representing the 70th District in the state House, while Tennesseeans elected Torrey Harris to become the first openly gay member of the state legislature. He will represent District 90 seat in the state House.
Cori Bush, who led protests following the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Missouri, will become the first Black woman the state has ever sent to Congress. She defeated her opponent—who represented the district for five decades—by a 79% to 19% margin.
“As the first Black woman and also the first nurse and single mother to have the honor to represent Missouri in the United States Congress, let me say this: To the Black women, the Black girls, the nurses, the essential workers, the single mothers, this is our moment,” Bush said Tuesday.
New Yorkers Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres will become the first openly gay Black men in Congress. Jones will be serving New York’s 17th congressional district. Torres, who will be representing the 15th District, is also the first Afro-Latinx gay congressman.
“Growing up, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone get elected,” Jones said in a statement released on Wednesday. “To grow up poor, Black, and gay is to not see yourself anywhere. Now, I am honored to have the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Marilyn Strickland, the former mayor of Tacoma, became the first Black member of Congress from the Pacific Northwest. A moderate Democrat, Strickland, who also identifies as Korean American, defeated her more progressive opponent to take Washington’s 10th Congressional District.
New Mexico also became the second state in the country—after Hawaii—to elect all women of color to its House delegation. Three women of color—Rep. Deb Haaland, Teresa Leger Fernandez, and Yvette Herrell—won their districts on Wednesday morning. Haaland, who was one of the first Native American women elected to Congress in 2018, won her re-election. Fernandez, a Hispanic woman, won against Republican Alexis Johnson for the 3rd Congressional District. Herrell, a Republican Indigenous woman, defeated Xochitl Torres Small for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.
“The people of New Mexico have chosen to protect what we love – our democracy, our planet, our families and communities, our health care, and our future,” Fernandez said in a Tuesday night tweet. “With this victory, I promise you I will take the courageous action that this historic moment demands. Muchísimas gracias!”