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The Future is Diverse – Meet the Women and Men That Shattered Glass Ceilings Election Night

Meet the men and women who broke glass ceilings across the country on election day.

A series of historic firsts swept across the nation in the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday. From the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress to the youngest woman elected to Congress, there are now more female House members than in 1992 – dubbed the “Year of the Woman” election.

A record number of women ran for the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier this year. A total of 476 women ran for the House of Representatives, and 53 women ran for the Senate. After 235 won party nominations to the House and twenty-two won party nominations to the Senate, there was a record number of 257 women on the ballot.

But this is not just an election year of firsts for women. There have been some firsts for men as well, including Democrat Jared Polis from Colorado, the first openly gay governor in the U.S.

These are some of the winners who made history in the 2018 elections:

Massachusetts’ First Black Congresswoman: Democrat Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna S. Pressley (born 1974) is an American politician elected to the United States House of Representatives for Massachusetts’s 7th congressional district in the general election of November 2018. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Before becoming Massachusetts’ first black Congresswoman, Pressley was the first black female on Boston’s City Council. Before the polls closed on Tuesday, she urged people to vote via Twitter: “Today, we are powerful. There are only a few hours left to get out the vote. Go #vote for progressive candidates who will fight for equity & justice. Vote for activist leaders who will work in and with community. Vote, because this is your democracy & your voice matters.”

Youngest Woman Ever Elected to Congress: Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Born and raised in Queens, New York, 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez is now the youngest woman elected to Congress. She is an advocate for increasing minimum wage, and is known for her “Medicare for All” position.

First Openly Gay Governor in the U.S.: Democrat Jared Polis in Colorado

A U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 2nd congressional district since 2009, Polis is the first openly gay governor in the history of the U.S. He is also the first Jewish governor of Colorado. Polis is a “self-made entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to expanding opportunity for Colorado families.”

First Native American Women in Congress: Democrat Deb Haaland and Democrat Sharice Davids

Elected to Congress to represent New Mexico, Haaland advocates better care for veterans: “Both of my parents served in the military, and I believe we have a duty to take care of veterans. I’ve spent my life standing up for my community, and I’ll do the same for us in Congress.”

A member of the Ho-Chunk nation and former MMA fighter, Davids is also the first openly gay person to represent Kansas in Congress.

Davids told MMA Fighting that her time fighting will benefit her in Congress: “For me, it impacts every facet of my life. From my ability in staying calm — and it’s not to say I don’t get upset or any of that stuff. But I do think that like when you spend a whole bunch of time literally getting punched, if you get angry every time you get punched, you’re not gonna last that long, because you’re gonna get burnt out.

Lou Leon Guerrero

Lou Leon Guerrero (By Mr.agf671 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons)

First Female Governor of Guam: Democrat Lou Leon Guerrero

Bank of Guam president and former Democratic lawmaker, Leon Guerrero is the ninth elected governor of the U.S. territory and the first female.

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity given to us to make a positive change for all our people,” Leon Guerrero told Pacific Daily News.

First Muslim Congresswomen: Democrat Rashida Tlaib and Democrat Ilhan Omar

Born to Palestinian parents and a strong advocate for immigrants, Tlaib has vowed to “fight back against every racist and oppressive structure that needs to be dismantled.”

Having come to the U.S. over 20 years ago as a refugee, Omar is the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress.

Tennessee’s First Female Senator: Republican Marsha Blackburn

Celebrating her victory in a hotel ballroom in Cool Springs, Tennessee, Blackburn addressed the crowd: “Thank you for believing in me and for hearing our message and for giving me your vote and for allowing me to be the first woman ever elected (to represent Tennessee in the Senate). And just imagine this, it is a conservative woman, to boot.”

Maine’s First Female Governor: Democrat Janet Mills

Mills has vowed to introduce an era of “open doors” and collaboration in government. She promised to fight for policies such as immigration, environment, and welfare. An active member of several organizations, Mills co-founded the Maine Women’s Lobby, an “advocate on the issues affecting the lives of Maine women and girls.

United States Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

United States Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Image via Flickr, Gage Skidmore)

South Dakota’s First Female Governor: Republican Kristi Noem

Elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, Noem is an experienced farmer, rancher, and small business owner. She emphasizes the importance of hard work, family and education.

In an interview with Keloland Media Group, Noem said, “I think it’s important to remember I’m a mom, so I view everything through the eyes of a mom. And our education system is one that is extremely important to our success in our future. Making sure we are putting resources in our classroom, we’re valuing teachers, but also we’re equipping our kids to fill the workforce needs we have in the state and really set them up for careers where they can be successful and stay here, around their family, and be supported.”

Texas’ First Latinas in Congress: Democrat Veronica Escobar and Democrat Sylvia Garcia

Though nearly 40 percent of the population in Texas is Hispanic, Escobar and Garcia are the first Latina women elected to Congress from the Lone Star State.

Garcia said on Twitter before the election: “I’ve dedicated my life to my community and public service, and want to take my fight for working families, immigrant justice, women’s rights, and equity for all to Washington.”

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Michelle Lujan Grisham

New Mexico’s First Latina Governor: Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham

While campaigning for governor, Lujan Grisham was known for advocating for raising minimum wage and increasing pay for teachers. She has vowed to partner with parents, teachers, and other leaders to ensure that “every child in New Mexico has an opportunity to succeed.”

Young Kim

Young Kim

First Korean-American Woman Elected to Congress: Republican Young Kim

On Kim’s final day of campaigning, she decided to return to her roots. In the primarily Korean neighborhood Fullerton, Kim walked (and even ran) from door to door to ensure that her base of Korean voters cast their ballots.

An immigrant herself, Kim recounted memories of helping her parents pick up bottles and cans to raise money for their church in Guam (where they settled). She later moved to Southern California to attend USC.

Kim told the Los Angeles Times: “My personal experience of being an immigrant, having gone through what this diverse immigrant community has gone through, struggling … those are real-life experiences that really helped me understand … the district.”

Joe Neguse

Joe Neguse, Member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Colorado’s 2nd district (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

First Black Congressperson Elected by Colorado: Democrat Joe Neguse

A first-generation American, Neguse will also become the first Congress member of Eritrean origins in Jan. 2019.

Neguse tweeted, “Honored beyond words to be the next Congressman for Colorado’s 2nd District! Together, we’ve made state history, and the rejection of the politics of division tonight across our country gives me so much hope for our future. Now, let’s get to work!”

First Openly Gay Congressperson Elected by New Hampshire: Democrat Chris Pappas

A former state lawmaker, Pappas also has experience running a family restaurant. He is a strong advocate for equality in the LGBTQ community.

Annise Parker, President and CEO of Victory Fund, said of Pappas: “Chris Pappas continues to smash long-standing political barriers for LGBTQ New Hampshirites — and his victory is emblematic of the pipeline of LGBTQ leaders who continue to rise through the ranks to better serve their constituents. Democratic primary voters are demanding authentic, values-driven leaders who prioritize policies over politics — and they found that leader in Chris. He was born and raised in the district, is a fierce advocate for fairness and equality, and will fight tirelessly to push forward policies that advance those principles. We need change in Washington, and a November victory for Chris is critical to securing a pro-equality majority in the next U.S. Congress.”

New York’s First Black Female Attorney General: Democrat Letitia James

There are several firsts for New York’s first female attorney general. James also claims the title of the first black person to serve as attorney general, as well as the first black woman to be elected to statewide office.

James affirmed, “As Attorney General, I will be a champion for New Yorkers in every corner of our state and use my experience, abilities, and passion to be the People’s Lawyer.”

Jahana Hayes

Jahana Hayes (Image via YouTube)

First Black Woman Elected to Congress by Connecticut: Democrat Jahana Hayes

Named the 2016 national teacher of the year, Hayes supports strengthening the public education system, enacting stronger gun safety laws, passing the DREAM Act to help children of immigrants become citizens and adopting a single-payer health care system.

Speaking of her community, who supported her as a young mother attending college, Hayes said, “It is these experiences that compel me to invest so deeply in my community, because I have been the beneficiary of so much undeserved grace. We can do whatever it is we set our minds to, as long as we work hard and work together.”

Minnesota’s First Muslim Statewide Official by Winning Attorney General: Democrat Keith Ellison

When he ran his first race to represent Minneapolis in 2006, Ellison became the first Muslim in Congress. He is now the first Muslim statewide official from Minnesota. He vows to defend workers, consumers, civil rights and the environment.

Kalan Haywood

Kalan Haywood (Image via Facebook)

Youngest Legislator in the U.S.: Democrat Kalan Haywood

The 19-year-old is the youngest state legislator in Wisconsin history. Although he is not old enough to rent a car, gamble or drink alcohol, Haywood will soon be voting on legislation concerning these and other issues. His first order of business is to propose that 18-year-olds are required to register to vote. He also plans to amend all law that will require all high school students to pass a civics exam.

First Lesbian Mother in Congress after Winning Minnesota’s 2nd District: Democrat Angie Craig

Craig advocates supporting small businesses, protecting the environment, caring for veterans, making higher education affordable and protecting senior citizens by keeping Medicare and Social Security in place.

Upon winning the election, she tweeted, “We knew from the beginning that this campaign was special. Everywhere we went, folks showed up to discuss their hopes for the future. From parades to canvass kick-offs to small business visits, I’ll always be grateful and will carry these stories with me to Congress.”

First Black Woman to Win Illinois’ 14th District: Democrat Lauren Underwood

A nurse who worked on the Affordable Care Act, Underwood supports affordable childcare, paid family leave, and equal pay.

Underwood told ABC News: “When I was considering running for Congress, my race and background was not something that I considered. This is my home. This is my community. I love Naperville and I love northern Illinois and it’s been a real honor to be able to run for office.”

Cindy Axne

Cindy Axne (Image via CindyAxneForCongress.com)

First Women Sent to the House by Iowa: Democrat Abby Finkenauer and Democrat Cindy Axne

Known as a “staunch defender of working families and a vocal advocate for women,” Finkenauer has pledged to fight for women’s health, affordable education, bipartisan immigration reform and supporting veterans.

Finkenauer said, “We must streamline communication between VA and non-VA health care providers so that any veteran seeking health care treatment, mental or physical, is given the care they need. We must also support programs that give military families and caregivers training on post-traumatic stress disorder and opioid addiction.”

Axne recently lobbied at the Capitol against puppy mills and for better treatment of dogs. When she learned that ten of the nation’s worst puppy mills are in Iowa, she joined Iowa Voters for Companion Animals. Axne is a mother, community activist and small business owner who has pledged to fight for Iowa working-class families.

For Democrats and Republicans alike, Tuesday was an eventful night. Amanda Hunter, communications director for the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, reiterated that the election helped send a record number of women to Congress.

“It was certainly an exciting night for women and those who champion women’s political parity,” Hunter said.

She continued, “We always say you can be what you can’t see. Seeing women run as unapologetically as themselves as it seems Ms. Blackburn did in many cases … shows other women and girls that they too can be successful and be authentic candidates.”

There will be one more first once the Arizona Senate race is decided. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally are still counting votes, whoever wins will become Arizona’s first female Senator.


Leighanna Shirey

Leighanna graduated with a degree in English from Pensacola Christian College. After teaching high school English for five years, she decided to pursue her dream of writing and editing. When not working, she enjoys traveling with her husband, spending time with her dogs, and drinking way too much coffee.

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