Here are the trailblazing candidates who will bring more diversity to Congress
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, youngest woman elected to Congress
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory in the June congressional primary in New York shook up Washington and the Democratic party. The progressive challenger and member of the Democratic socialist party unseated a powerful 10-term New York congressman, running with a campaign ad that said: “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.”
Now age 29, she has become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Elise Stefanik previously held the record when she was elected to Congress at age 30 in 2014.
Ayanna Pressley, first black House member from Massachusetts
Pressley was the first black woman to serve on Boston’s city council and made history again after defeating the 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano in the primary. She did not face a challenger in the general election, making her the first black member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts.
In her victory speech in September, she said: “These times demanded more from our leaders and from our party. These times demanded an approach to governing that was bold, uncompromising and unafraid. It’s not just good enough to see the Democrats back in power but it matters who those Democrats are.”
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, first Muslim congresswomen
Tlaib ran unopposed in her race to represent Michigan’s 17th district and has become the nation’s first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, and one of two Muslim women elected on Tuesday.
She is a Democratic-Socialist who served on the state legislature from 2009 to 2014 and ran her congressional primary campaign supporting Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage and abolishing Ice. Tlaib was famously escorted from a Trump rally in 2016 as she shouted questions at the candidate, asking him if he had ever read the constitution.
Ilhan Omar, also the first Somali-American in Congress, is a former refugee who spent the last four years as a state legislator. There, she pushed a progressive agenda, including a $15 minimum wage and subsidizing higher education costs for low-income students.
Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, first Native American congresswomen
An attorney and former MMA fighter, Davids became the first Native American congresswoman and the first lesbian congresswoman from Kansas.
Raised by a single mother army veteran and a member of the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation, Davids was a fellow in the Obama White House.
In New Mexico, Deb Haaland became the first Native American woman to chair a state political party. Now, the former Democratic chair has also become the first Native American congresswoman in the US, alongside Davids. A citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, Haaland is a longtime activist who ran on a progressive platform, including Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, and the impeachment of Trump.
Jahana Hayes, first black congresswoman from Connecticut
The 2016 National Teacher of the Year and first-time political candidate Jahana Hayes won her bid to represent Connecticut’s fifth congressional district. Hayes is the first black woman to represent the state in the Congress, and, alongside Massachusetts’ Pressley, will be one of the first two women of color to represent New England.
Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, first Latina congresswomen from Texas
More than a third of the population of the Lone Star state may be Latino, but until Tuesday, no Latina had been elected to represent the state in congress. Veronica Escobar, a former county judge, won her race in Beto O’Rourke’s former district in El Paso, while Sylvia Garcia trounced her Republican opponent in Houston.
“It’s about time,” Garcia told supporters, according to the Texas Tribune. “But you know, it’s never been about being a first. It’s always been about being the best.”