AJC Celebrates the Women of Color who Made History During 2017 Election

November 15, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. The women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates who made history in the 2017 election
Ella Nilsen for Vox: “Barrier-breaking candidates won races across the country on Election Day this year. The results were a parade of “firsts” from New Hampshire to North Carolina to Montana as women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates became the first to win elections in their respective contests. Cities in Minnesota and Montana elected their first black mayors, and Charlotte, North Carolina, elected a black woman as mayor for the first time. Virginia elected its first Latina and Asian-American delegates. Transgender candidates won races in Virginia, Minnesota, California, and Pennsylvania. Tuesday was a big night for Democrats — and these historic “firsts” show that the party can run a diverse slate of candidates and win.”

2. Meet Andrea Jenkins, the first openly transgender black woman elected to public office in the U.S.

Marwa Eltagouri for The Washington Post: “Jenkins, 56, said she believes her and Roem’s victories are proof many of the nation’s communities won’t succumb to hatred, bigotry or transphobia — and are willing to fight for social justice and equality for all minority groups. ‘Transgender people have been here forever, and black transgender people have been here forever,’ Jenkins told The Post after her election night win. “I’m really proud to have achieved that status, and I look forward to more trans people joining me in elected office, and all other kinds of leadership roles in our society’…In her acceptance speech, Jenkins said that ‘as an African-American trans-identified woman, I know firsthand the feeling of being marginalized, left out, thrown under the bus,’ KMSP-TV in Minneapolis reported. ‘Those days are over. We don’t just want a seat at the table, we want to set the table.'”

3. Democrats Just Won A Massive Victory For Voting Rights In Virginia
Sam Levine for HuffPost: “The election had high stakes for voting rights. Virginia strips people of their right to vote if they are convicted of a felony, and those rights can only be restored by the governor. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) moved aggressively to restore rights to more than 168,000 former felons ― a policy Northam has said he is proud of and will continue. In 2016, the nonprofit Sentencing Project estimated there were 508,680 people in Virginia who remained disenfranchised because of a felony conviction, meaning hundreds of thousands more could benefit from Northam’s policies. More than 1 in 5 people disenfranchised in the commonwealth because of a felony conviction were African-American, according to the organization.”

4. Vi Lyles Makes History As Charlotte’s First Black Female Mayor
Derek T. Dingle for Black Enterprise: “On Election Day, history was made in Charlotte, North Carolina, as Democrat Vi Lyles, who has spent decades in public service as a budget official, city administrator, and city council member, easily defeated Republican City Council Member Kenny Smith to become the first African American woman to lead the Queen City. In her victory speech, she told supporters: ‘With this opportunity you’ve given me, you’ve proven that we are a city of opportunity and inclusiveness. You’ve proven a woman whose father didn’t graduate from high school can become this city’s first female African American mayor.'”

5. Mazahir Salih, Iowa City’s newest councilwoman, makes history
Andy Davis for Press-Citizen: “Iowa City’s newest council member, Mazahir Salih, may be the first Sudanese-American to hold elected office in the United States. Salih, a founding member of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa and a local activist, was elected Tuesday to an at-large seat on the Iowa City Council after she earned 5,573 votes, or 77 percent. Salih is Iowa City’s first Sudanese-American council member, but also likely is the first Sudanese-American person elected to governmental office in the United States, according to Majed Khalifa, a board member of the Sudanese American Public Affairs Association.”

6. De La Isla discusses matters linked to her election as mayor
Tim Hrenchir for The Topeka Capital-Journal: “One day after winning election as Topeka’s second female mayor, District 5 City Councilwoman Michelle De La Isla talked Wednesday afternoon with The Capital-Journal. She said that when she takes office, she’ll ‘shatter glasses’ by achieving milestones that include becoming Topeka’s first Hispanic mayor, first Latina mayor and first mayor to be a single mother, as well as the first to be employed outside of working for the city.”

7. A Year After Trump, Women and Minorities Give Groundbreaking Wins to Democrats
Michael Tackett, Trip Gabriel, and John Eligon for The New York Times: “If the 2016 presidential election reflected a primal roar from disaffected white working class voters that delivered for President Trump and Republicans, Tuesday’s results showed the potential of a rising coalition of women, minorities, and gay and transgender people who are solidly aligning with Democrats.A black transgender activist, Andrea Jenkins, was elected to the Minneapolis City Council. A Hispanic woman won the mayor’s race in Topeka, Kan. A Sikh man was elected mayor in Hoboken, N.J. Latina, Vietnamese and transgender female candidates won state legislative races. Black candidates were elected lieutenant governor in New Jersey and Virginia. A Liberian refugee in Helena, Mont., was elected mayor. Mark Keam, a Korean-American Democrat who was re-elected on Tuesday to his seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates, said the wave of first-time minority candidates was a direct response to feeling snipped out of the American picture by Mr. Trump’s policies and divisive language.”