Women and LGBT candidates make history in 2018 midterms

Posted at 8:33 AM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-07 10:33:17-05

From a pair of Native American women to a Somali refugee to the first openly gay man elected governor, the 2018 midterm elections brought a series of history-making votes that marked major accomplishments for women and LGBT candidates.

Here’s a rundown of the history made Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

Record number of women to win seats in the House

record number of women are projected to win seats in the House in a massive night for female candidates across the political spectrum.

As of early Wednesday morning, CNN projected 96 women would win House races, with 31 women newly elected to the House and 65 female incumbents. That bests the previous record of 85 representatives, according to the Congressional Research Service.

First Native American women

Democrats Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland will become the first Native American women elected to Congress, CNN projected. Davids’ win in Kansas against GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder was a pickup for Democrats, who CNN projects to gain control of the House.

Haaland will replace New Mexico Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who vacated the seat to run for governor.

Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Haaland is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, according to their respective campaigns. Davids identifies as a lesbian, making her the first openly LGBT member of Congress from Kansas as well. She will enter Congress having previously worked as a lawyer and a former mixed martial arts fighter.

First Muslim women

CNN projected Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will become the first Muslim women in Congress.

Victories for both were expected following primary victories earlier this year.

Tlaib will fill the seat formerly occupied by Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who left office last year amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Omar will take the seat vacated by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison opted to run for Minnesota attorney general this year.

Omar, in addition to being one of the first Muslim women in Congress, will also be the first Somali-American member. She came to the US more than two decades ago as a refugee.

First openly gay man elected governor

Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis’ bid for governor will be successful, CNN projected, meaning the openly gay member of Congress will become the first openly gay man elected governor.

Polis will succeed Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited from seeking the office again, and will defeat Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton.

Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who identifies as bisexual, is already the first openly LGBT person to be elected governor. Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey came out as gay before he stepped down from office in the early 2000s.

Polis was one of several LGBT candidates who ran for governor this cycle, along with Brown in Oregon, Vermont Democrat Christine Hallquist and Texas Democrat Lupe Valdez.

First female senator from Tennessee

Rep. Marsha Blackburn became the first female senator to represent Tennessee when she outlasted a challenge from former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat who looked to run against his party to win in a state President Donald Trump won by 26 percentage points in 2016.

Blackburn, a conservative lawmaker closely tied to the President, looked to nationalize the Senate race as much as possible, hoping to tap into the same conservatism that elected Trump in order to blunt some goodwill Bredesen had built up during his two terms as governor. Trump visited the state three times.

Blackburn has served in the US House since 2003.

First female senator from Arizona guaranteed, if not yet known

Arizona is guaranteed to elect its first female senator. Following GOP Sen. Jeff Flake’s decision last year not to seek re-election, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is facing off against GOP Rep. Martha McSally.

Sinema and McSally are locked in a tight race as of just after midnight ET Wednesday and it was unclear when a projection in the race may come.

Texas sends first Hispanic women to Congress

Texas voters elected the state’s first two Hispanic women to Congress as Veronica Escobar won the seat to replace Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the congressional district near El Paso. O’Rourke gave up his seat in order to unsuccessfully run for Senate. CNN projects Escobar would defeat Rick Seeberger.

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia won a Houston-area district that was relinquished by the retiring Democratic Rep. Gene Green. CNN projects Garcia will defeat Phillip Aronoff.

South Dakota elects its first woman governor

Republican Kristi Noem will become South Dakota’s first female governor after defeating Democrat Billie Sutton, CNN projects. Noem had previously been serving as South Dakota’s at-large member of Congress.

Some firsts out of reach

While Tuesday marked a series of first steps for the nation, many other candidates fell short in their own groundbreaking bids.

Tallahassee Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum would have become Florida’s first black governor, and Tuesday night saw him losing to Florida Republican Ron DeSantis. And in Vermont, Democratic nominee Christine Hallquist already made history as the first transgender major party nominee for governor, but she was unable to defeat GOP Gov. Phil Scott, CNN projected.

But as with Hallquist’s nomination being a first of its own, so were contests across the nation. The 2018 midterm elections saw a diverse field and a record high numberof women running — and with votes cast, it remained to be seen as of Tuesday night how the full picture will shake out.