10 candidates that made history on November 7, 2017

Election night was full of historic firsts.

Democratic nominee for the House of Delegates 13th district seat, Danica Roem, gets a hug from supporter and local resident, Godfrey Wade, as she canvasses a neighborhood Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Manassas, Va. CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber
Democratic nominee for the House of Delegates 13th district seat, Danica Roem, gets a hug from supporter and local resident, Godfrey Wade, as she canvasses a neighborhood Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Manassas, Va. CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber

Tuesday night was historic. Amid high turnout across Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, and elsewhere, voters elected a range of progressive candidates, many whose victories signify the first time queer and transgender people, communities of color, and religious minorities will be represented in office.

Here are a few of the next wave of diverse U.S. lawmakers.

Danica Roem, Virginia

Manassas Park Democrat Danica Roem triumphed over one of Virginia’s most socially conservative delegates to become the country’s first openly transgender state lawmaker to be both elected and seated. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R), Roem’s opponent, ran a deeply transphobic campaign, distributing fliers with a section titled “Danica Roem In His Own Words” and another header reading “Danica Roem, born male, has made a campaign issue out of transitioning to female.”


Those tactics failed Tuesday night, when Roem soared to victory over Marshall. A jubilant Roem thanked her constituents for their efforts while emphasizing her commitment to local issues, something many of her voters cited as a reason for their support.

“Discrimination is a disqualifier,” she announced. “This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics…where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”

Vowing to solve traffic problems (the promise she ran on), Roem emphasized that she would address congestion on Route 28, an issue raised by many of her supporters.

“That’s why I got in this race. Because I’m fed up with the frickin’ road over in my home town,” she said.

Many posters also took to Twitter to celebrate Roem’s historic win and what it meant for the transgender community in particular:

Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala, Virginia

Democrats Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala are poised to become the first Latinx women to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates after securing historic victories last night.

Both candidates defeated incumbent Republicans, flipping their districts in the process. Guzman is Peruvian-American with a background in social work who has indicated that she is passionate about expanding family and health services. Ayala, who helped organize the Women’s March, quit her job to run for office. The daughter of a Salvadoran immigrant, Ayala has taken a strong stance against the White House’s agenda. Trump’s administration, she told reporters, “discriminate[s] against people who look like me.”

Ayala and Guzman thanked their supporters Tuesday night while celebrating with other historic candidates.

“I am humbled by the faith that my future constituents have placed in my candidacy and our message,” Ayala wrote in a statement.

Justin Fairfax, Virginia

Following another historic win, the state’s next lieutenant governor will be Democrat Justin Fairfax, the second Black man to hold the title and only the second Black American ever elected to statewide office in Virginia.

“This election showed that Virginians believe in our unified vision for the Commonwealth, not one based on fear-mongering and division,” Fairfax said in a statement after his victory. “That positive vision is the one we’ll go to Richmond with — and the one that we’re going to spend the next four years making a reality.”


Fairfax’s job will be important for progressive issues — in the case of a state Senate tie, the lieutenant governor is allowed to cast a vote. That’s crucial for causes like expanding Medicaid, an effort that Virginia state Republicans have blocked repeatedly.

Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Andrea Jenkins, a 56-year-old Black transgender woman, won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council last night. Jenkins will represent Ward 8 and she is the first openly transgender Black woman elected to the city council of a major U.S. city. Althena Garrison was the first transgender person elected to a state legislature, but she did not campaign as openly transgender; Kim Coco Iwamoto was the first openly transgender woman of color elected to public office.

Jenkins celebrated her win and victories for the transgender community more broadly Tuesday night.

“Transgender people have been here forever, and black transgender people have been here forever,” Jenkins told the Washington Post. “I’m really proud to have achieved that status, and I look forward to more trans people joining me in elected office, and all other kinds of leadership roles in our society.”


Jenkins won with approximately 73 percent of the vote and has said she will work to address youth violence and work with small businesses in the city.

“We’re really trying to bring some resources to underserved, underinvested communities,” she said. “Those are the issues we’re paying close attention to.”

Wilmot Collins, Helena, Montana

Montana has its first-ever Black mayor after voters elected Wilmot Collins mayor of Helena. Collins, who came to the city 23 years ago as a refugee from Liberia, campaigned on a progressive message of hope and resilience. That resonated with voters and allowed Collins to unseat the city’s mayor, who has held office for 16 years and showed slowness in removing a Confederate statue earlier this year. Collins, by contrast, advocated the for statue’s removal.

“We’re preventing people from bringing in hatred and bigotry,” he said in August. “We’re not erasing history. History will be here forever.”

The mayoral office is non-partisan but Collins has spoken out against Trump’s policies, particularly the president’s travel ban, which targets refugees and citizens from several predominately Muslim-majority countries.

“Coming here provided me a second chance. A second chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That second chance provided me family,” Collins told a local news outlet in January. “There isn’t any evidence of refugees in the United States of America actually committing terrorism acts. When we label refugees as that we are lying to the world. We are lying to the public.”

“We need to give refugees credit because when they come to this country they do interact. They are a part of the community and they are a part of the economy,” he continued.

Ravinder Bhalla, Hoboken, NJ

A storm of racist fliers and vitriol didn’t stop Democrat Ravinder Bhalla, who will be the first turbaned Sikh mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey.

Bhalla, who has served two terms on the Hoboken city council and wears a turban signifying his faith, faced a disconcerting attack campaign days before the election.

Flyers targeting Bhalla, many of which were distributed around Hoboken, read, “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town.”

While Bhalla said the flyers were “troubling”, he tweeted that “we won’t let hate win” following the incident. He was right: on Tuesday night, Bhalla became one of only a handful of Sikh mayors to lead a large U.S. city.

“Thank you for having faith in me, for having faith in our community, faith in our state, and faith in our country; this is what America is all about,” he told supporters.

Jenny Durkan, Seattle, WA

Formal federal prosecutor Jenny Durkan is Seattle’s first openly lesbian mayor and the city’s first woman mayor since the 1920s.

Durkan’s win came after a heated campaign featuring 21 candidates all vying to replace Mayor Ed Murray following his resignation.

As results poured in, Durkan promised to address Seattle’s severe housing crisis, one of the city’s most pressing issues. She also had a message for the president.

“We really can show what it looks like when progressive values are put into action,” she said. “Donald Trump, keep your hands off Seattle.”

Kathy Tran, Virginia

Kathy Tran came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam when she was an infant. She is now the first Asian American woman elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates.

Tran, a Democrat, flipped the 42nd District, defeating Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak.

Twitter users hailed Train’s historic win, as well as her history and inspirational story:

Lee Carter, Virginia

Identity politics bit back on Tuesday night in far more ways than many expected. Lee Carter, a 30-year-old Democratic Socialist, beat Republican Del. Jackson Miller, Virginia’s House Majority Whip, to win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Carter, who works as an IT specialist and is a Marine Corps veteran, talked to the New Republic about his political ideology last month, saying:

I was actually already running by the time I considered socialism as an economic philosophy. My introduction to it actually came through the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. He went out there and said, ‘I’m a democratic socialist. Here’s what that means: It means I believe in strong unions, health care for everybody, and an end to discrimination.’ Well, that’s what I believe in, too. I dug a little more into it, and I realized a lot of the problems we have in today’s society reflected in electoral politics are symptoms of economic problems.

Carter’s opponent wasn’t a fan: he sent out flyers linking the candidate to Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. That didn’t pan out well for Miller in the end — Carter made history with more than 58 percent of the vote on Tuesday night.

This post will be updated.