Local, State Elections Hit Unique Diversity Milestones

Votes are still being counted to determine results of the presidential election, but the 2020 election saw a number of diversity firsts in down-ballot races across the country. Many candidates from underrepresented backgrounds made history on Tuesday when they were elected to serve at state and local levels.

From New Mexico becoming the first state ever to elect all women of color to the House, to Tennessee electing Democrat Torrey Harris and Republican Eddie Mannis, the first openly LGBTQ politicians to serve in the state general assembly, the list of diversity firsts in the 2020 election is long.

Here are seven history-making winners from races across the country:

Sarah McBride

In Delaware, Sarah McBride, 30, won her senate seat and became the first transgender state senator and highest-ranking openly transgender official in U.S history.

McBride launched her senate campaign last year after becoming the first transgender speaker at a major party convention when she delivered remarks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She previously served as the press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Delaware.

“I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too,” she tweeted after her win. She will replace Sen. Harris McDowell, a Democrat who is retiring.

Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres

In New York two Democrats, Mondaire Jones, 33, and Ritchie Torres, 32, became the first gay black members of Congress. Both are activists who grew up in poor, single-parent households. They defeated their Republican challengers in the race.

“We are going to have a United States Congress that is every bit as diverse as America itself,” Torres said on election night. He will represent New York’s 15th Congressional District and is also the first gay Afro-Latino person to be elected.

And Jones tweeted, “My story, quintessentially, is that of the American Dream.” He will represent New York’s 17th Congressional District.

Mauree Turner

Mauree Turner from Oklahoma, who uses she/they pronouns, hit three milestones this week. She became the country’s first nonbinary state legislator, Oklahoma’s first Muslim legislator and the first Black person to represent the state’s 88th district.

Turner, 27, is an activist and community organizer. She defeated Republican Kelly Barlean to represent the district.

“A lot of people don’t know how much you risk putting your name on the ballot if you are not a white cis het man and it was a lot of work to get here,” she told ABC’s KOCO News on Wednesday. “I had to put faith in my community to catch me when I jumped. And they did.”

Cori Bush

In Missouri, Cori Bush became the first Black woman to win a House seat in the state after running for Congress a third time.

Bush, 44, got into politics after the protests in Ferguson, Mo., that followed the police killing of Michael Brown. She is a single mom, an ordained pastor and a nurse. She was also a COVID-19 patient earlier this year, and ran her campaign on a progressive platform.

“To the Black women, the Black girls, the nurses, the essential workers, the single mothers. This is our moment,” she said in her victory speech.

Zohran Mamdani and Jenifer Rajkumar

Two Indian-American Democrats will be the first South Asians to represent the lower house of New York’s state legislature.

Both Jenifer Rajkumar and Zohran Mamdani are from Queens, which is home to the largest concentration of South Asians in New York City.

Rajkumar, 38, is a civil rights lawyer and will represent District 38 having defeated her Republican rival, Giovanni Perna. Mamdani, 29, who is a housing counselor and hip-hop artist, will represent Astoria. He is the son of award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair.

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