The historic and progressive wins you may have missed from the 2020 election

From a transgender Senator to a record number of Native Americans in Congress, local leadership is also shifting

By Ashlie D. Stevens
November 9, 2020 9:32PM (UTC)
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Sarah McBride (Rich Fury/Getty Images for Human Rights Campaign)

While the unprecedented (and seemingly never-ending) presidential election took up much of the spotlight last week — as did the welcome news that Kamala Harris will be first woman and woman of color as Vice President — history was made in a lot of smaller state and local races, too. 

From politicians of color reaching new heights in the legislature, to big shifts in local government leadership, here are some of the wins that should be on your radar. 

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A record number of Native American women were elected to Congress

Three Native American women have been elected to the House of Representatives: Democrat Deb Halaand, a Laguna Pueblo member representing New Mexico, Democrat Sharice Davids, a Ho-Chunk Nation member representing Kansas, and Republican Yvette Herrell, who is Cherokee and will represent New Mexico. 

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Halaand and Davids, the Guardian reports, both retained their seats after becoming the first Native American women elected to Congress in 2018. Additionally, the Center for American Women and Politics reports that 18 indigenous women ran for congressional seats this year, which is also a record in a single year. 

Cori Bush becomes the first Black congresswoman in Missouri

Bush, a registered nurse and Black Lives Matter activist, will become the first Black congresswoman in the state's first congressional district, which includes Ferguson, where, as the New Yorker reports, she led protests against the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. 

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All four members of the "Squad" were comfortably re-elected

Shortly after the 2018 midterm election, Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — all Democratic, first-term congresswomen of color— gained nationwide attention and promptly dubbed themselves "The Squad." 

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The four freshmen congresswomen have vocally supported progressive proposals like raising the minimum wage, advocating for the Green New Deal and calls to impeach Trump — who had previously attacked the women, who are all obviously American citizens, in a series of 2019 tweets, telling them they should "go back" to their countries of origin. 

According to the Associated Press, Pressley defeated Roy Owens in Massachusetts, Omar defeated Lacy Johnson in Minnesota, Ocasio-Cortez defeated John Cummings in New York, Tlaib defeated David Dudenhoefer in Michigan

LGBTQ+ politicians had several monumental victories 

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Sarah McBride, a former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, will become the nation's first person who publicly identifies as transgender to serve as a state senator after winning last week's election in Delaware; this makes her the highest-tanking trans official in U.S. history. 

In Vermont, Taylor Small — the 26-year-old director of the health and wellness program at Pride Center of Vermont — was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives, where she will be the first openly transgender member of the state's Legislature.

Ritchie Torres,  a New York City Council member, won his U.S. House race to represent the South Bronx, becoming the first Afro-Latino Congress member who identifies as gay, reports CNN. 

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Meanwhile in Kansas, former schoolteacher Stephanie Byers — who is a member of the Chickasaw Nation — beat out her Republican challenger, Cyndi Howerton, for the District 86 Kansas House of Representatives seat. This makes her the state's first openly transgender lawmaker. 

Kim Jackson became Georgia's first openly LGBTQ state senator; Torrey Harris and Eddie Mannis became the first LGBTQ  legislators elected in Tennessee and Shevrin Jones and Michele Rayner-Goolsby became the first in Florida. 

In Oklahoma, the Washington Post reports, Mauree Turner — a queer, Black Muslim who wears a hijab and identifies as nonbinary — won a seat in state's legislature' becoming the first openly nonbinary state lawmaker in the country.

Francesca Hong becomes the first Asian American to serve in Wisconsin's State Legislature

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According to Madison 365, Francesca Hong, a restaurateur and activist, won Wisconsin's 76th Assembly District, which will make her the first Asian American to serve in the state's Legislature. 

"Hong, a second-generation Wisconsinite, mother, community organizer, and service industry worker, easily defeated Republican candidate and real estate intern Patrick Hull, 88 percent to 12 percent," David Dahmer wrote for the publication. 

Local government leadership is changing, too

According to WUSA9, a local television station in Washington, D.C., a majority of the city's Council will be women for the first time in more than 20 years, and a majority of members will be Black for the first time since 2013. 

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The cities of Asheville, N.C. and El Monte, Calif., both elected their first all-women city councils. 

 

UPDATE: This story has been updated since publication to include news of Mauree Turner's election to the Oklahoma state legislature. 


Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is a staff writer at Salon, specializing in culture.

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