15 Women and Nonbinary Candidates Who Just Made History By Winning Their Elections
In a series of firsts, Democratic women and nonbinary candidates saw big wins in local political races across the country. From state house races to congressional seats, these historic gains continued to prove the value of local organizing and voter registration.
Supermajority News took a look at some of the most notable firsts for women of color and the LGBTQ community that occurred during the 2020 election. We’ll be updating this list throughout the coming days as more victors are declared as votes are counted.
Nora Vargas, a vice president of Planned Parenthood of the Southwest, will soon become the first Latino to represent California District 1 of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. This election was the first time the District 1 seat had been primaried in decades, and in those years, the area has become increasingly Latino. Vargas told The San Diego Union-Tribune that she was eager to address the issues that directly impact the community. “The reality is that the government isn’t working for many of our people and our families,” she told the paper.
Colorado’s State House will soon inaugurate both its first Liberian American legislator, Naquetta Ricks, and its first Muslim legislator, Iman Jodeh. The soon-to-be lawmakers reflect the increasing diversity of their state’s electorate. Born in Nigeria, Ricks resettled in Aurora, Colorado during Liberia’s civil war as a child. Jodeh also has an immigrant and refugee background, as she was born to Palestinian refugees who first moved to Colorado in the 1970s.
At 30, LGBT advocate Sarah McBride has a long history of working in Delaware state politics. A former staffer for the late Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, she is also credited for being instrumental in the state’s passage of protections for transgender residents. On Tuesday, she became the first openly transgender state senator in the country.
As close election watchers know, Miami-Dade County is the most populous county in Florida. In January, lawyer and community advocate Daniella Levine Cava will be sworn in as Miami-Dade’s first woman mayor. Michele Rayner-Goolsby will also make history in the Florida legislature when she becomes the first openly Black queer women elected to the chamber.
At just 26 years old, Christina Haswood is about to become both Kansas’ youngest elected legislator and only its second current Native American member. Hasgood recently told Business Insider that it was her Navajo background and experience working in public health that inspired her to pursue public office.
Stephanie Byers, the first openly transgender legislator elected in the state, will also join Haswood. A retired teacher, Byers made education funding a focus of her campaign.
Cori Bush already made history when she defeated 10-term incumbent Congressman Lacy Clay during the 2020 primary season. The registered nurse and former Ferguson protestor will soon become the first woman of color and the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress.
New Hampshire’s Senate will soon gain its first LGBTQ woman member with the election of Rebecca Perkins Kwoka in State Senate District 21. As small businesses continue to suffer during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kwoka told reporters that the economy will be her top priority.
With the election of Teresa Leger Fernandez in New Mexico’s Third Congressional District, New Mexico will have a House delegation that is entirely made up of women of color. As Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University told Supermajority News in June, the fact that New Hampshire reached this milestone in 2013 is “an important and significant sign of progress for women’s representation in Congress.”
After winning the election for Oklahoma’s 88th House district, criminal justice reform advocate Mauree Turner will become Oklahoma’s first Muslim member and its first nonbinary member in January. After her win on Tuesday, Turner said that she hoped that her election would inspire other members of the Muslim and the LGBTQ communities. “It means a lot to be able to provide that visibility for other folks,” she told The Oklahoman.
Taylor Small is a longtime advocate for Vermont’s LGBTQ community and has spent several years working on health disparities that disproportionately affect LGBTQ people in particular. On Tuesday, she was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives, where she will become the state’s first openly transgender member in January. A 2016 graduate of the University of Vermont, Small will also be one of the House’s youngest members. The Burlington Free Press reports that Small’s campaign focused on the issues that matter to rural voters, namely “health care, transportation and internet access, especially in rural areas.”
Businesswoman Marilyn Strickland will soon be the first Black woman to serve in Washington state’s House delegation. Strickland, who was born in Seoul to a Black father and Korean mother, will also be the first Korean American member of Congress. She was also the first Korean and African American mayor of Tacoma, Washington, an office she held from 2010 to 2018.
Chef, restaurant owner, and activist Francesca Hong is set to become the first Asian American state representative after winning the election for Wisconsin’s 76th District Assembly seat. Throughout her campaign, she focused on issues that affect the area’s working class. “Communities historically left out of the process are engaged by grassroots organizations and are redefining what democracy looks like,” Hong told Madison365.