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News > U.S.

Record Number of Women Legislators Join US Congress

  • Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at her midterm election night party in New York City, U.S. November 6, 2018.

    Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at her midterm election night party in New York City, U.S. November 6, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 January 2019

For the first time in U.S. history, during the U.S. midterm elections in November more than 100 Black and Latino women, LGBT, and Native Americans were elected to the U.S. Congress and Senate and to state legislatures.

From New Mexico’s Debra Haaland, who became one of the first two indigenous women elected to the U.S. Congress to New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 became the youngest woman elected to the chamber, the U.S. Congress this year has notched several precedents as the lawmakers elected in November swore in on Thursday.

History Made as Minorities Elected to Congress

Two Native American women elected became the first indigenous people seated in Congress, with Sharice Davids in Kansas and Haaland in New Mexico.

After defeating a long-time incumbent in a Democratic primary, Ocasio-Cortez, became the youngest woman elected to Congress. The title was previously held by Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican who was first elected at the age of 30 in 2014. 

There are two women who won seats to become the first female Muslim members of Congress: Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota. Omar will also be the first member of Congress to wear a hijab or headscarf, which she does as a Muslim. She is also the first Somali-American elected to Congress, as a former refugee who fled Somalia’s civil war.

Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress. The oldest of 14 children, Tlaib was born to a family of Palestinian immigrants in Detroit, where her father worked at a Ford Motor Co plant.

Two women became the first in their respective states to be elected governor: Democrat Janet Mills won the Maine gubernatorial race and Republican Kristi Noem secured victory to be next governor in South Dakota.

New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, is also replacing outgoing Republican Governor Susana Martinez, becoming the first time a state has elected two women in a row to the governor’s office.

Republican Young Kim of California won a close race that secures her place as the first Korean-American woman elected as U.S. representative.

Democrats Jahana Hayes of Connecticut and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts will share the precedent as the first black women elected to the U.S. Congress from New England.

There are two women in Texas whose victories will make them the first Latin women from the Lone Star state to go to Congress. Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia both secured election victories.

Nevada also became the first state in the United States to have a female majority in its legislature.  The appointments of the Democrats Rochelle Thuy Nguyen and Beatrice Angela Duran gave women 51 percent of the 63 seats in the legislature. The seats were vacated by Chris Brooks and Olivia Diaz.

Women in the state legislature will have nine out of 21 Senate seats and 24 seats out of 42 in the lower house, or Assembly, making an overall female majority. Before 2018, New Hampshire was the first state to have a female majority in the state Senate between 2009 and 2010.

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