US midterms: The history-makers in a night of firsts

Two Muslim women were elected to the US Congress for the first time – and were among a record number of women to enter the chamber in the polls.

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Onetime Somali refugee Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, who is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, shared the historic distinction of becoming the first two Muslim women voted into the House of Representatives.

“I’m Muslim and black,” the hijab-wearing Ms Omar said in a recent magazine interview.

“I decided to run because I was one of many people I knew who really wanted to demonstrate what representative democracies are supposed to be,” she said.

In her victory speech Ms Tlaib said: “This was my time to run and not sit on the sidelines. And so, I ran. And, so by chance, I’m also making history today. But more importantly people got something different.”

Aimee Allison, president of Democracy in Colour, said America was “on the cusp of not only a new political era but a new cultural era powered largely by the women of colour”.

And she was right.

Joining Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib in the history books were also New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland and Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids who were elected as the first two Native American women to serve in Congress.

Thirty-eight-year-old Ms Davids, who is a trained lawyer and a former mixed martial arts fighter, is also openly lesbian, in a state that is traditionally conservative.

In Colorado, Democrat Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a US state.

In another first, Republican Marsha Blackburn became the first female senator of Tennessee, replacing retiring Republican senator Bob Corker.

She has served eight terms in the House and is viewed as one of the most conservative members of that chamber.

“Now you don’t have to worry if you’re going to call me congressman, or congresswoman or congress lady,” she said in her victory speech. “Now, senator will do.”

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Polls had shown her and Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen neck-and-neck for months – unusual for a deeply red state – and both had high-profile endorsements in the run up to the elections.

President Donald Trump made three visits to the state for the Republican, while pop star Taylor Swift broke her political silence to endorse throw her weight behind the Democrats in Tennessee.

The first African-American to serve on the Boston City Council, Ayanna Pressley completed her quest to become Massachusetts’ first black woman elected to Congress.

She stunned the political establishment in September, defeating a 10-term incumbent in the Democratic primary, and was unopposed on Tuesday.

Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia both won their races to make history to become the first Hispanic women to represent Texas in Congress in the House of Representatives, representing the state’s 16th and 29th congressional districts, respectively.

“This isn’t just the year of the woman, this is the year of every woman,” said Cecile Richards, who served as the president of Planned Parenthood for more than a decade, noting the groundbreaking diversity among the women who have run for office this year.

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