U.S. Midterms: Historic Wins for Women and Minority Candidates

Democracy at Work

Youngest female ever elected to Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), meets with Delaware Senate seat candidate and activist, Kerri Evelyn Harris in September 2018. (photo: Kerri Evelyn Harris)

Echos of 1992’s “Year of the Woman”

On an election day much like yesterday’s, way back in 1992, American voters elected more women to Congress than in any previous decade. Political forecasters in the U.S. had been predicting ‘a rise of the woman candidate’ since the late 1970’s and it had almost happened in 1984.

Why 1992?

Much like 2018, 1992’s surge in female candidates had a number of driving forces. Many of these still echo in yesterday’s historic elections, and indeed in the election years since:

  • There were a record number of women on the ticket in 1992
  • There were a large number of retiring Members in 1992
  • 1992 also marked the start of over 20-years of political achievements by minority women: 47 out of 58 who have served in Congress were elected from 1992–2016
  • Gains in 1984 gave 1992 a bigger pool of female political candidates with experience in office
  • Economic downturns and scandals contributed to a general anti-incumbent sentiment. ‘Outsider’ candidates gained an edge, and women, long the political outsiders and anathema to the ‘good old boys’ club, capitalized.
  • Abortion rights were felt to be in jeopardy, with a pro-life President in the White House and the Supreme Court considering a ruling that might have reversed Roe V. Wade

2018 Mid-term Elections

Following 1984, 1992 and steady gains ever since, 2018 swept more than 100 women into seats in the House and Senate. Diversity also won some pretty incredible victories this election, as well, with many firsts taking their long-appointed seats at last. These newly elected public servants will be exciting to watch in the coming year as they take office and begin the difficult work of representing their districts and constituents. Here are a few to watch:

  • Rep. Sharice Davids (Kansas-D) and Rep. Deb Haaland (New Mexico-D) will be the first female Native American women in Congress. Rep. Sharice Davids also becomes Kansas’s first openly gay member of Congress.
  • With his election as Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis (D.) becomes the first openly gay man to serve as Governor of a U.S. State.
  • 28-year Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-D) will become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, unseating former title holder, Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican elected at 30 in 2014.
  • Rep. Jahana Hayes will be Connecticut’s first African-American woman elected to Congress.
  • Rep. Ayanna Pressley will become Massachusett’s first African-American woman elected to Congress.
  • Rep. Cindy Axne and Rep. Abby Finkenauer will together become Iowa’s first women elected to the House of Representatives. Finkenauer is only 29-years old and only just missed being the youngest female ever elected to congress.
  • Iowa also elected it’s first female Governor: Kim Reynolds, a Republican and former lientenant governor of Iowa 2011–2017.
  • South Dakota gets it’s first female Governor: Republican and four-term U.S. congresswoman, Kristi Noem.
  • Tennessee elects it’s first female Senator: Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, an eight-term congresswoman serving Tennessee.

Expansion of Voting Rights: 2018 Mid-term Election

There were quite a few notable victories for voting rights on election Tuesday 2018 as well. These initiatives passed very easily, signaling robust bi-partisan support for expanding voting rights:

  • Michigan voters elected to modernize their election systems with Election Day registration, automatic registration, better absentee ballots and strait ticket voting.
  • Nevada will also adopt automatic registration measures
  • Maryland will adopt Election Day registration

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