Groundbreaking campaigns have broken barriers this election, with historic candidates changing the face of Congress and statehouses across the US. Women have run in record numbers, and Native Americans, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, millennials and LGBT candidates have already made history with their campaigns.
Here are the key trailblazing candidates who are diversifying American politics and have already won their races so far.
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.
Ocasio-Cortez is the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Bronx-born father and grew up in a working-class community. She ran a grassroots campaign that took on the “Queens Democratic party machine” and championed progressive proposals, such as the abolition of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (Ice), a single-payer healthcare plan and tuition-free college.
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 formerrefugee 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.
Her congressional platform has included the cancellation of student debt, banning private prisons and aggressive funding cuts to military spending. In 2016, she became the first Somali-American state legislator in the country.
Jared Polis, first openly gay man elected governor
As the Democratic nominee for governor in Colorado, Polis ran on a leftwing platform, which included single-payer healthcare, repeal of the death penalty, universal full-day preschool and stronger gun laws. Polis, who declared victory late Tuesday night, has long been outspoken in favor of marijuana legalization.
Kate Brown, who is bisexual, became the first openly LGBT person elected governor in 2016 when she won her Oregon race. Jim McGreevey, a Democrat and former New Jersey governor, came out while in office in 2004.
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.
Marsha Blackburn, first female senator from Tennessee
A Republican who represents Tennessee’s 7th congressional district, Blackburn has become the first female senator in the state. Her race received national attention after the pop star Taylor Swift, who previously avoided politics, endorsed Blackburn’s opponent, the Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen. Blackburn has been closely aligned with Trump and is farther to the right than the GOP senator she is replacing.
Janet Mills, first female governor of Maine
Maine has elected its first female governor, the Democrat Janet Mills, who was the state’s attorney general. She declared victory early Wednesday morning and is replacing a controversial and bombastic Republican governor, Paul LePage. She regularly clashed with LePage, who is known for his overtly racist comments and was once caught threatening a state lawmaker in an an obscenity-laced voicemail.
Abby Finkenauer, first congresswoman from Iowa
In Iowa, Abby Finkenauer beat the Republican Rod Blum, who has held the seat since 2014. In addition to being the first woman elected to Congress from Iowa, at age 29, she is also one of the youngest people ever elected to the House. She is a two-term Democratic state representative.