Leadership

The Trailblazing Women Of The US Midterms

Results are in. Here are the women who made history by winning office.

By Lara Robertson

Leadership

Results are in. Here are the women who made history by winning office.

By Lara Robertson

Tuesday’s midterm elections in the United States saw a record 117 women win office, 96 of those in the House of Representatives alone. 100 of these women are Democrats, while 17 are Republicans. Many were historic victories for women of colour and LGBT-identifying women, proving that 2018 is truly the ‘Year of the Woman’. With a record number of women on the ballot, many supposed that women became empowered to run in reaction to the election of US President Donald Trump and the significance of the #MeToo movement. Either way, it’s now obvious that voters have a growing appetite for more diverse leadership. The midterms saw a historically large voter turnout, with record numbers of female and youth votes contributing to the success of female candidates. Once sworn in next year, women will still only make up around 20 per cent of Congress. However, the improvement of female representation in US government has significant ramifications not only for policy-making, but will likely encourage more women to run for office in the future. Here’s your guide to the history-making women of the US midterms and the issues they stand for.

1
The first openly gay Native American woman elected to Congress

Sharice Davids

A former mixed martial arts fighter and attorney, the Democrat won the race for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, unseating Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder. During the race, Davids’ campaign focused on increasing access to quality, affordable healthcare by improving the Affordable Care Act, and ensuring every child can receive a quality public education.

Image credit: Instagram @shariceforcongress

2
The first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts

Ayanna Pressley

The Democrat candidate won the race for Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District, having defeated 10-term Democrat incumbent Mike Capuano in the September primary election and running unopposed in the midterms. “In Congress, I will be focused on lifting up the voices of those in community, partnering with activists and residents, and ensuring that those closest to the pain are closest to the power, driving and informing the policy-making,” Pressley said.

Image credit: Instagram @ayannapressley

3
The first Muslim women elected to Congress

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib

Both Democrats, Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib and Somali-American Ilhan Omar won Michigan’s 13th Congressional District and Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, respectively. Omar, who is the first refugee and hijab-wearing woman to be elected to Congress, holds a number of progressive views, including the provision of universal healthcare and free college education to all Americans. Tlaib’s campaign focused on issues such as raising the minimum wage to $15, preventing cuts to welfare programs such as Medicare and Social Security, as well as preventing tax cuts to large corporations.

Image credit: Instagram @rashidatlaib

4
The youngest woman ever elected to Congress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

At 29, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman to be elected to Congress after she defeated Republican Anthony Pappas in a landslide victory, winning over 75 per cent of the vote in the race for New York’s 14th Congressional District. A Hispanic Democrat, Ocasio-Cortez supports a number of progressive policies, including efforts to abolish ICE, as well as establishing a federal jobs guarantee and universal healthcare.

Image credit: Instagram @ocasio2018

5
One of the first Native American women elected to Congress

Deb Haaland

Alongside Sharice Davids, Democrat candidate Haaland became one of the first Native American women elected to Congress when she won New Mexico’s first Congressional District. Haaland is dedicated to improving Native American political representation, and while she is passionate about progressive issues like universal healthcare and raising the minimum wage to $15, her main passions include the environment and renewable energy.

Image credit: Instagram @deb4congressnm

6
The first black female Attorney General of New York

Letitia James

The lawyer, activist and Democrat became the first African-American woman to be elected to a statewide office and to the position of attorney general after overwhelmingly defeating Republican nominee Keith Wofford. In her victory speech, James pledged to continue the office’s scrutiny of President Trump, name a public ethics counsel, pursue criminal justice reform and push to bring corruption cases independent of the governor’s office.

Image source: Instagram @tishjames2018

7
First woman elected to the Senate from Tennessee

Marsha Blackburn

Although Taylor Swift famously broke her political silence to speak out against the conservative Republican candidate, Swift’s star power wasn’t enough to stop Blackburn, who defeated former Democrat governor Phil Bredesen by 10 points. Blackburn, who aligned herself closely with President Trump and his policies during the race, is opposed to same-sex marriage, legalised abortion, and the Affordable Care Act.

Image source: Twitter @MarshaBlackburn

8
The first black woman elected to Congress from Connecticut

Jahana Hayes

Hayes, a Democrat who was named Connecticut’s National Teacher of the Year in 2016, defeated Republican Manny Santos in the state’s 5th Congressional District. The former history teacher supports a number of progressive policies including stricter gun control, improving public education, and single-payer healthcare.

Image credit: Instagram @realjahanahayes

9
The first Hispanic women elected to Congress from Texas

Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia

In a state where over 40 per cent of the population are Hispanic, Democrats Escobar and Garcia became the state’s first Hispanic women to be elected to federal office. Escobar won the seat vacated by Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke in the state’s 16th Congressional District, while Garcia won the 29th District. Both women support abortion rights and cited the President’s policies as motivation for running. But they differ on immigration rights: Garcia supports abolishing ICE, while Escobar wants to hold the agency more accountable for its actions.

Image credit: Twitter @vgescobar

10
The first female governor of South Dakota

Kristi Noem

The Republican became the first female governor of South Dakota after defeating Democrat Billie Sutton in a tight race. A member of the House of Representatives for eight years, Noem voted in favour of Obamacare repeal, and has firm anti-abortion views, receiving an ‘A’ rating from the National Right to Life movement during her time in the House. Noem’s campaign focused on keeping taxes low, cutting government spending, and introducing more government transparency.

Image credit: Instagram @repkristinoem

11
The first women elected to Congress from Iowa

Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne

Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne won the race for Iowa’s first and third Districts by close margins, beating incumbent Republican candidates Rod Blum and David Young, respectively. Finkenauer – who at 29 is one of the youngest women to be elected to Congress – campaigned on improving the lives of working classes by providing more affordable healthcare and education. Axne, a small business owner, campaigned on issues including raising wages and protecting union rights.

Image credit: Instagram @abby4iowa

12
The first female governor of Maine

Janet Mills

The Democrat and state attorney general beat out Republican Shawn Moody to become Maine’s first female governor. Some of Mills’ main political priorities include increasing access to Medicaid, providing broadband access in rural areas and addressing the state’s opioid crisis.

Image source: Twitter @JanetMillsforME

Want to know more? Read our US midterm related coverage here.

 

 

If you enjoyed this article and believe in supporting quality journalism become a Future Women member here. We need your support. Future Women is a new forward-thinking platform committed to gender equality in Australia and beyond.