In the Trump era, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar become the first Muslim women elected to Congress

It's a stunning response to the anti-Muslim rhetoric that helped thrust President Donald Trump into the Oval Office

Published November 7, 2018 3:45PM (EST)

Ilhan Omar; Rashida Tlaib (Getty/Stephen Maturen/AP/Paul Sancya)
Ilhan Omar; Rashida Tlaib (Getty/Stephen Maturen/AP/Paul Sancya)

In a night of historic firsts, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar won their races in Detroit and Minneapolis to become the first Muslim-American women in the House of Representatives — a stunning response to the wave of anti-Muslim rhetoric that helped thrust President Donald Trump into the Oval Office in 2016 and has only festered since then.

In Minnesota, Omar handily won her race for the 5th Congressional District seat, which represents Minneapolis and its surrounding suburbs. The race was called by the New York Times, with Omar leading with 78.2 percent of the vote to 21.8 percent for her Republican challenger, Jennifer Zielinski.

Omar, who will also become the first Somali-American member of Congress, will replace Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who on Tuesday won his hotly-competitive race for state attorney general, in turn making him one of the highest-ranking Muslim elected officials in the country. His campaign had been rocked by allegations of domestic violence from the congressman's ex-girlfriend.

She was largely favored to win the solidly-blue Minnesota district, which has not sent a Republican to Congress since 1962.  The Minnesota state congresswoman embraced a progressive platform that included Medicare for All, criminal justice reform and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Omar, a Somali refugee who spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the U.S. at 12 years old, often speaks out against Trump's travel ban against Muslim-majority countries.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, Tlaib cruised to victory in the 13th Congressional District to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who resigned last year amid sexual misconduct allegations. The race was called by the New York Times, with Tlaib leading with 84.8 percent of the vote to 11.2 percent for her Working Class Party hopeful, Sam Johnson.

Tlaib will become the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress. The former Michigan state representative was widely favored to win on Election Day in the deeply Democratic district. She faced off against five other candidates in the state's crowded Democratic primary in August.

"Congratulations to my sister Rashida Tlaib on your victory!" Omar tweeted after Tlaib's victory on Tuesday night. "I cannot wait to serve with you, inshallah."

On the campaign trail, Tlaib joined dozens of other progressive candidates across the country in saying she would likely not support longtime House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in her desire to wield the speaker's gavel once again when Democrats regain control of the House on November 6.

Tlaib did nott waste any time in taking a jab at the president on Twitter. Hours after her victory, she seemingly referenced Trump's post-midterm meltdown about Republicans losing control of the House of Representatives, writing, "If you think [Donald Trump's] mad now, just wait until Fox and Friends starts talking about me and @IlhanMN. You can't ban us from Congress!"

By Shira Tarlo

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