These Women Made History in the Midterms
Conventional political wisdom says that every election is the most important election of your life, and if you’re one of the women below, then this midterm election really was the biggest possible deal.
For the first time in history, more than 100 women won races for Congress, and at least nine won governorship. As EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock points out to BuzzFeed News, this incoming class of women will include the youngest (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29) and the oldest (Donna Shalala, 77) in its ranks. “This is gonna be the most diverse freshmen class of women that we’ve ever brought in by far, in race, profession, and age,” she said.
Among this new class, history was made in pairs: American voters elected the two first ever Latinas to represent Texas, the first Muslim American women in Congress, and the first Native American women in Congress. These six women along with dozens more congressional candidates, led to the Democrats retaking control of the House of Representatives. (Republicans retained control of the Senate.) This means we might see Trump’s tax returns after all, and we’ll likely not have to go through another Affordable Care Act repeal in the next two years.
And some history hangs in the balance — in the contentious Georgia governor's race, Stacey Abrams stands to be the first black female governor, and she’s waiting until all votes are counted before conceding to her opponent who held a tiny margin ahead of her at press time. Meanwhile the Arizona senate race is too close to call, but either Republican or Democrat, the winner will be the state’s first woman in the seat.
Beyond the historic victories by women, the first openly gay man was elected to governor in Colorado, and Florida passed an amendment to restore voting rights to more than 1 million people. Since the 2020 presidential election is about to begin in earnest (and midterm results led to more than one name be floated as possible candidates) let’s take at least 24 hours to celebrate these women and their history-making wins.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Youngest Woman In Congress
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rocked the political world when she defeated Joe Crowley, a 10-term congressman who politicos thought would take over for House Minority Leader. He hadn’t had a challenger in 14 years, and now, a democratic socialist in favor of Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, and abolishing ICE, who happens to be 29-years-old, represents the 14th Congressional District of New York. The district is already solidly blue, and even though her victory was all but guaranteed after winning the primary, Ocasio-Cortez kept campaigning. “We hadn’t had a primary election in 14 years, and I feel like we can be better. That means it’s my responsibility to do something,” Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News.
Sylvia Garcia, First Latina in the House of Representatives for Texas
Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar are the first Latinas to represent the state of Texas in the House of Representatives, after the state has sent more than 300 people to lower body of Congress since it joined the union in 1845. Considering that Texas is nearly 40 percent Latino, these historical wins are even more overdue. Texans elected Garcia, a former social worker and lawyer, by a wide margin against her Republican opponent.
Veronica Escobar, First Latina in the House of Representatives for Texas
“There are so many talented and brilliant women out there whose voices we need but we can't have, because they're single moms or because they just don't have the financial means to do it,” Escober told Instyle from the campaign trail. “So I recognize in the difficulty I've faced that I am actually very fortunate to be able to make the sacrifice. It definitely has not been easy, but I'm grateful for the opportunity,” she said. Escobar marks the other First Latina elected in Texas, again by a wide margin against her Republican opponent.
Deb Haaland, First Native American Congresswoman in United States
Deb Haaland won the 1st Congressional District of New Mexico on Tuesday night to become the first Native American congresswoman in U.S. History. Haaland is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna who ran a campaign on Medicare for all and supporting policies that counteract climate change. “Growing up in my mother’s pueblo household, I never imagined a world where I would be represented by someone who looks like me,” Haaland told her supporters on Tuesday night.
Sharice Davids, First Native American Congresswoman in United States
In the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas, Sharice Davids defeated Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder to become the first Native American congresswoman in the country, along with Deb Haaland. Davids is also the first openly queer congresswoman from Kansas and the first openly queer woman of color in Congress. The Ho Chuck Nation member is also an MMA fighter, which also seems to be a first.
Rashida Tlaib, First Muslim Woman In Congress
As of Tuesday, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, campaigned on a $15 minimum wage, overturning Citizens United, and Medicare for All. “I'm a different kind of public servant,” Tlaib told the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday night. “Being there [in Congress] is going to be important so that my residents feel like they have a seat at the table but also someone with a lot of courage to stand up and speak up."
Ilhan Omar, First Somali-American in Congress and First Muslim Woman in Congress
In 2016, Omar made history when she was the first Somali-American elected to the Minnesota state house. Now she’s made the move to the House of Representatives. “Being an immigrant, a refugee, Muslim — all of those things represent an otherness that is not typical or easily confined into the social fabric of this country,” Omar told TIME when she was featured on the cover of the magazine as one of the women changing the world in September 2017.
Ayanna Pressley, First Black Congresswoman in Massachusetts
Ayanna Pressley beat a 10-term congressman to get to her seat representing the 7th District of Massachusetts. There were no Republican challengers on the ballot this year for the district that John F. Kennedy once represented, so history-making was all but guaranteed. Pressley had previously made history when she was the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council in 2009.
Marsha Blackburn, First Woman Senator of Tennessee
Marsha Blackburn is the first woman senator to represent Tennessee. She’s a Republican candidate who first made national headlines for leading the House committee that investigated Planned Parenthood in 2016 for supposedly profiting from fetal tissue donations. If you’re not a Tennessean, and that news didn't raise your eyebrows, you probably heard of Blackburn when Taylor Swift broke her political silence in order to endorse her Democratic opponent.
UPDATE: As of 8 p.m., Monday, November 12, Kyrsten Sinema has won the Arizona Senate race — yet another history-making moment from the 2018 midterms.
Kyrsten Sinema, First Woman Senator of Arizona
A former school social worker who lived her "American Dream" by going through college on Pell grants and scholarships, Sinema told InStyle that her political aspirations were based on her desire to give more Arizonans their chance at a better life, too — and she knows exactly how to get the job done as part of this history-making new class of female lawmakers. “The good news is that all across the country women are stepping up, running for office, and getting involved. We’re rolling up our sleeves and we’re getting to work to solve real problems. That’s the kind of leadership our country needs.” The Democrat is replacing Republican Senator Jeff Flake.