An Election Night of Firsts: From Colorado’s Gay and Jewish Governor, to Native American and Muslim Women Heading to Congress

With big victories and bitter disappointments for both Republicans and Democrats Tuesday night, one thing was undeniable: the 2018 midterm results contained numerous historic firsts

Democratic Colorado Governor-elect Jared Polis / Democrat Ilhan Omar, who won Minnesota's 5th Congressional District race.
REUTERS/Eric Miller, Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images/AFP

With big victories and bitter disappointments for both Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday night, one thing was undeniable: The 2018 midterm results contained numerous historic firsts.

In Colorado, 43-year-old Jared Polis scored a double first: He became the first openly gay U.S. governor, as well as the state’s first Jewish governor. His election was facilitated by demographic changes in the state, which over the past decades have seen a surge of young voters, as well as an increasing number of minorities, move into what used to be an overwhelmingly white state.

Polis' replacement in the House of Representatives is Joe Negus, who became the first Eritrean-American to be elected to Congress.

Democrat Ilhan Omar speaks after winning in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District race, November 6, 2018
Hannah Foslien,AP

The elections were also a tremendous milestone for many women – and all signs pointed to it becoming a record year for female politicians once all the results are in.

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Several states welcomed their first female governors: In Iowa, Kim Reynolds was headed to the state house; Janet Mills became Maine’s first woman chief executive; and the U.S. territory of Guam elected Lou Leon Guerrero, who is currently president of the Bank of Guam, to its governorship in another first.

Democratic Colorado Governor-elect Jared Polis arrives onstage with running mate Dianne Primavera on November 6, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.
AFP
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In Michigan and Minnesota, Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar – who moved to the United States with her family in 1995 after fleeing their native Somalia – both won, to become the first female Muslim members of the House of Representatives.

Attorney Sharice Davids, a Democrat from Kansas, along with Deb Haaland, the former chair of New Mexico’s Democratic Party, are the first Native-American women to win seats in Congress. Davids is another double pioneer: a lesbian, she is also Kansas’ first LGBT member in the House.

Tennessee’s election results made the GOP’s Marsha Blackburn the first female senator to represent the state. In Arizona, the Senate race was too close to call Tuesday night, but whichever candidate triumphs, either Democrat Kyrsten Sinema or Republican Martha McSally will be the state’s first female Senator.

Massachusetts also had a record first, electing Ayanna Pressley, the state’s first African-American congresswoman.

In California, Republican candidate Young Kim is poised to become the first Korean-American woman to be elected to Congress. She hails from a Southern California district with a heavily Asian and Latino population: a third of the district’s residents are immigrants, like Kim herself.

And at 29, New York Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest-ever woman to win election to the House of Representatives.

Democratic U.S. congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib attending a midterm campaign rally at a union hall in Detroit, Michigan, November 4, 2018.
\ REBECCA COOK/ REUTERS

History evaded a few, though. In Florida, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum fell just short of becoming his state’s first African-American governor.

And while there was no final verdict on Tuesday, it looked like an uphill fight in Georgia for Stacey Abrams to realize her dream of becoming that state’s first black female governor.

Abrams chose not to concede Tuesday evening, despite lagging behind her opponent by some 100,000 votes. “Votes are waiting to be counted, voices are waiting to be heard," she said.

Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum thanks his supporters after delivering his concession speech Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Chris O'Meara,AP