Inspiring Down-Ballot Wins That Defy Racism, Sexism

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
Yahoo Beauty
Tammy Duckworth waves to supporters
Incoming Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-IL. (Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

As America is divided over the election of Donald Trump, it’s important to remember that the presidential race was not the only key takeaway from the events of Nov. 8. Equally significant is the fact that the 115th Congress that will assume session in January will be the most diverse in history as a result of the election of nine women of color in critical down-ballot races.

Among them, the first-ever Latina and Indian-American women will enter the U.S. Senate. The second Asian-American senator — and the first female senator to have seen combat — will also become a senator.

These nine women were backed by Emily’s List, the political action committee that works to elect pro-choice women to all bodies of government. Jess O’Connell, executive director of Emily’s List, tells Yahoo Beauty, “The women we just elected will bring their diverse perspectives and strong voices to Congress at a time when we’ve never needed them more. Their leadership will provide the checks and balances that are such a critically important part of our government, as we continue our work to achieve full equality for women.”

Catherine Cortez Masto
Former Nevada Attorney General and Democratic U.S. Senate incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto speaks after winning her senate race against U.S. Rep. Joe Heck. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Catherine Cortez Masto

Cortez Masto‘s election is particularly historic — she is the first Latina woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

A former two-term attorney general of Nevada, the state she will now be representing in the Senate alongside Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, Cortez Masto will assume the seat currently held by retiring Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid. As attorney general, Cortez Masto created a senior protection unit in her office to best protect the elderly from abuse, neglect, and exploitation and prosecute those who acted against them. During that time, she also brought suit against Bank of America for its role in the crash of the housing market through the result of predatory lending practices, achieving a historic $1.9 billion settlement for Nevadans who lost their homes in the housing market collapse.

She has campaigned on protecting Medicare and Social Security from fraud, abuse, and waste; comprehensive immigration reform; paycheck fairness and closing the gender wage cap; environmental conservation; raising the minimum wage; combatting human trafficking; ending workplace and housing market discrimination against LGBTQ Americans; overturning Citizens United; and supporting abortion and contraception access.

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris celebrates winning her Senate race. (Photo: Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times)

Kamala Harris

Winning her race for retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat representing California in the U.S. Senate, Kamala Harris is now the first Indian-American woman in the Senate, the first African-American woman to be elected to the Senate in over 20 years (and the second African-American woman in the Senate’s history), and the first African-American to ever represent the state of California in the Senate.

Harris is presently California’s attorney general, and the first woman and the first person of color to hold that title in the state. She previously served as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County and as a district attorney in San Francisco.

While attorney general, Harris has been active in her work to fight both human trafficking and cyber bullying — and revenge porn, specifically — and develop digital tools to help law enforcement support survivors.

Harris ran on a platform of support and enhancement of LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reformcombatting climate change, college affordability, universal pre-kindergarten, affordable childcare, paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, and paycheck fairness.

Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth at the Democratic National Convention. (Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Tammy Duckworth

U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in a race that will make her the first Thai-American woman in the U.S. Senate; when Duckworth was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014, she became the first Asian-American woman to represent the state of Illinois in that chamber.

She will also be the second Asian-American senator and the first female senator to have seen combat — Duckworth is a veteran of the Iraq War, where, as an Army pilot, she lost both legs while successfully landing a helicopter after it had been hit by a grenade, an act for which she was awarded a Purple Heart metal.

Duckworth has been a strong supporter of women’s reproductive rights during her time in the House, equal payLGBTQ rights, immigration reform, and support and services for victims of domestic violence.

Val Demings
Val Demings speaks during the Democratic National Convention. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Val Demings

Val Demings, current police chief of Orlando, Fla., is now headed to the U.S. House of Representatives, winning her race for a seat representing Florida’s 10th district, defeating Republican candidate Thuy Lowe. Deming is the first woman to serve as chief of police in Orlando.

Lisa Blunt Rochester
Lisa Blunt Rochester (Photo: Getty Images)

Lisa Blunt Rochester

Delaware’s former secretary of labor, Lisa Blunt Rochester won her election to become the first African-American woman to represent the state of Delaware in Congress.

Stephanie Murphy
Stephanie Murphy won Florida’s 7th congressional district. (Photo: Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call)

Stephanie Murphy

The first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, Stephanie Murphy will be joining the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Florida’s 7th District. Murphy defeated 23-year incumbent Rep. John Mica and received endorsements from President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the Human Rights Campaign during her campaign. Murphy’s parents were Vietnamese refugees, and she is the first woman in her family to go to college.

Pramila Jayapal
Pramila Jayapal will replace U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott in Washington’s deeply liberal 7th Congressional District. (Photo: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Pramila Jayapal

Jayapal, who will be representing Washington state’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, will be the first Indian-American woman to serve in that body of Congress. Jayapal immigrated to America from India as a teenager and is the founder of the group OneAmerica, which works to prevent hate crimes and discrimination against Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Americans.

Colleen Hanabusa
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Colleen Hanabusa

Winning back the U.S. House of Representatives seat she previously occupied, the Japanese-American Hanabusa will become one of two Buddhists serving in the House.

Nanette Barragan
Nanette Barragan poses for portrait in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo: Michael Bezjian/WireImage)

Nanette Barragán

A former Hermosa Beach, Calif., councilwoman, the Mexican-American Barragán garnered endorsements from the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters in her campaign to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing California’s 44th district, in Los Angeles.


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