by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)
Although the Orange and Peach-producing states of Florida and Georgia have yet to bear the historic fruit of African-American gubernatorial victory (fingers still crossed for you, Stacey Abrams!), there were many historic elections won last night by African-Americans and people of color that GBN would like to celebrate as we move into 2019 with more diverse local, state and federal governments, hopefully geared towards just change and unity:
Ayanna Pressley is elected first black House member from Massachusetts. Pressley was the first black woman to serve on Boston’s city council and made history again after defeating the 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano in the primary. She did not face a challenger in the general election, and last night was officially elected to the House of Representatives.
In her victory speech, she said: “These times demanded more from our leaders and from our party. These times demanded an approach to governing that was bold, uncompromising and unafraid. It’s not just good enough to see the Democrats back in power but it matters who those Democrats are.”
Jahana Hayes is elected first black congresswoman from Connecticut. The 2016 National Teacher of the Year and first-time political candidate Jahana Hayes won her bid to represent Connecticut’s fifth congressional district. Alongside Massachusetts’ Pressley, will be one of the first two women of color to represent New England.
In upstate New York, Schenectady native Antonio Delgado beat out Rep. John Faso to take the Hudson Valley’s 19th Congressional District seat the Times-Union reports. The candidates were in a dead heat for a while, but Delgado eventually pulled ahead. Delgado now becomes the first black congressman to represent the district.
In Illinois, Lauren Underwood unseated Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren to take the state’s 14th Congressional District in suburban Chicago. Underwood, a 32-year-old nurse, and former adviser to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services won in a traditionally Republican-leaning area. Underwood made history with her victory as the first woman and first African American elected to represent the district.
Underwood has been a longtime advocate for access to affordable quality health care, first as a nurse and later as a senior advisor in the Obama administration.
Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, first Native American congresswomen. An attorney and former MMA fighter, Davids became the first Native American congresswoman and the first lesbian congresswoman from Kansas. Raised by a single mother army veteran and a member of the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation, Davids was a fellow in the Obama White House.
Haaland is a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo people. Haaland is focused on progressive issues like Medicare-for-all and a $15 minimum wage, she says she is most passionate about the environment and promoting clean, renewable energy.
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar become first Muslim congresswomen. Tlaib ran unopposed in her race to represent Michigan’s 17th district and has become the nation’s first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, and one of two Muslim women elected on Tuesday.
She is a Democratic-Socialist who served on the state legislature from 2009 to 2014 and ran her congressional primary campaign supporting Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage and abolishing Ice.
Omar is the first Somali-American, first refugee and first woman of color elected to represent the fifth congressional district of Minnesota.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory in the June congressional primary in New York shook up Washington and the Democratic party. The progressive challenger and member of the Democratic socialist party unseated a powerful 10-term New York congressman, running with a campaign ad that said: “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.” Now 29, she has become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, first Latina congresswomen from Texas
More than a third of the population of the Lone Star state may be Latino, but until Tuesday, no Latina had been elected to represent the state in congress. Escobar, a former county judge, won her race in Beto O’Rourke’s former district in El Paso, while Garcia trounced her Republican opponent in Houston.
“It’s about time,” Garcia told supporters, according to the Texas Tribune. “But you know, it’s never been about being a first. It’s always been about being the best.”
Letitia James is Elected New York Attorney General. James was overwhelmingly elected as the attorney general of New York on Tuesday, shattering a trio of racial and gender barriers and now in position to be at the forefront of the country’s legal bulwark against the policies of the current federal administration.
Wesley Bell is elected St. Louis County, Missouri’s first black prosecutor. Bell’s victory was no surprise, as his real victory came in the August 7 Democratic primary when he crushed incumbent Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch – who made enemies of blacks and progressives – for 27 years. Bell celebrated making history with supporters on election night last night, now that his win is official.
Also, all 19 black women who ran for various judicial seats in Harris County, Texas won their races last night, marking the single biggest victory for black women in the county’s history.
And with the passing of Amendment 4 in Florida, 1.4 million people with felonies on their record will be getting the right to vote back. This re-enfranchisement of former felons who have served their sentences (except for those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses) will likely be significant factor in future elections in that state.