Two white men headlined the US election, but this diverse group of Americans were also voted in

While vote counting in the race for the White House continues, there have been some historic wins confirmed for women and people of colour across the United States, as well as LGBTQI+ candidates, young Americans, and those living with disability.

Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush and Mondaire Jones.

Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush and Mondaire Jones were all elected in the US. Source: Instagram/jamaalbowmanny, Getty Images, The Washington Post

The US election isn't all about Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

A diverse cohort of Americans ran for Congress in 2020, following on from the success of candidates from minority groups during the 2018 midterm elections.

And while votes are still being counted in many districts, there have been some big and historic wins. Here’s a rundown of some of those who are celebrating. 

Jamaal Bowman is now 'a black man with power' in New York

Source: Getty Images

Jamaal Bowman’s story bears more than few similarities to that of Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

Like Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Mr Bowman is a previously little known, progressive candidate who won a New York congressional district by unseating a much more senior and established Democrat in his primary.

The former teacher, 44, spent his early years in public housing and built his election campaign around the Black Lives Matter movement.

“You know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A black man with power,” he said during his primary night speech.

He ousted 16-term Eliot Engel, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in July and was elected virtually unopposed.

“I’m ready to get to work to disrupt the status quo and deliver for our families,” the father of three said on Twitter. 

Mr Bowman was endorsed by the Justice Democrats, a progressive left-wing group that helped sweep ‘The Squad’ into office in 2018, all members of the which won re-election on Tuesday.

Cori Bush has broken new ground for African American women in Missouri

Cori Bush winning her primary earlier in the year.
Source: Getty Images

Black Lives Matter activist, registered nurse and pastor Cori Bush has become Missouri’s first female African American member of the House of Representatives.  

The Democrat, 44, sensationally beat incumbent Lacy Clay in her primary, whose family had represented Missouri's 1st Congressional District for 50 years.

Ms Bush was a prominent figure during the massive protests in Ferguson in 2014, sparked by the police killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. She has kept up activist work this year amid the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“To the black women, the black girls, the nurses, the essential workers, the single mothers: this is our moment,” she said in her victory speech, which has been widely shared on social media.

Cori Bush becomes first black congresswoman in Missouri, United States

Ms Bush featured in a 2019 documentary called Knock Down the House, which followed the grassroots 2018 mid-term campaigns of three other aspiring congresswomen, including Ms Ocasio-Cortez, as they tried to dislodge established politicians. 

Mondaire Jones is the first openly gay black member of the House of Representatives

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Source: The Washington Post/ Getty Images

New Yorker Mondaire Jones has also made history by becoming the first openly gay black person elected to the House of Representatives.

An attorney who worked in the Department of Justice during the Obama presidency, the 33-year-old's election, alongside those of Mr Bowman and Ms Bush, has been anticipated since winning primary races in June.

“Growing up, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone get elected," Mr Jones tweeted after officially securing victory. 

Ahead of the vote, he snagged some big endorsements from Democratic heavyweights such as former US president Barack Obama, as well as senators and former presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. 

"I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone get elected," he tweeted. 

Ritchie Torres is the first gay Afro-Latino representative in Congress

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Source: Getty Images

Just two congressional districts over from Mr Jones, another LGBTQI+ man of colour has become a trailblazer.

With a sweeping election victory in New York's 15th Congressional District, one of the poorest in the country in terms of median income, Ritchie Torres secured a spot in history as the first gay Afro-Latino representative in Congress.

“Tonight, a new era begins for the South Bronx,” he said in a statement shortly after his win. "It is the honour of a lifetime to represent a borough filled with essential workers who have risked their lives so that New York City could live.

It isn't the first time Mr Torres has made US political history. At age 25, he became the youngest ever elected official in New York City when he joined the city council.

Kaiali'i Kahele is increasing the representation of Native Hawaiians

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Source: Facebook/Kaiali'i Kahele

Following an easy victory on election day, Democrat Kaialiʻi Kahele has become only the second Native Hawaiian in Congress since Hawaii became a state in 1959.

Mr Kahele, who replaces previous Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard, grew up in the fishing village of Milolii and has served in the Hawaii Air National Guard.

“I am deeply honoured and humbled to be elected by the people of Hawaii,” he said in a victory speech posted to Facebook. “I want to bring the spirit of unity and the values of aloha to Washington DC.” 

Mr Kahele joins fellow Democrat Bill Case as Hawaii’s two representatives in the US House. The results in Hawaii’s two congressional districts reflect a voter turnout of 67 per cent of total registered voters - a figure higher than in 2008 when Hawaii-born Mr Obama was running for president.

Madison Cawthorn will be the youngest person in Congress

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Source: Getty Images

North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn is set to become the youngest congressional representative in modern history.

The 25-year-old - a staunch conservative who is anti-abortion, an immigration hardliner and pro-gun rights – has a lived experience of disability. He was paralysed in a car accident when he was younger and uses a wheelchair.

“I will be [my representative’s] sword in Washington and work to bring an end to partisan politics. We are one Republic and I will stand for all Americans,” he tweeted after his election victory.

Mr Cawthorn came under scrutiny earlier this year for photos posted on Instagram showing him visiting Adolf Hitler's holiday house in Germany and a caption saying it "did not disappoint". 

Asked about it by local media, he “completely and wholeheartedly” denounced white nationalism and Nazism. 

Transgender woman Sarah McBride is leading a 'rainbow wave' 

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Source: sarahmcbride.com

LGBTQI+ candidates across the US racked up a series of historic wins in state politics, including Sarah McBride.

The Democrat won the race for the Delaware Senate on election day, making her the first transgender person to hold a senate office anywhere in the US and the highest-ranking transgender official in the county.

"I hope tonight shows an LGBTQI+ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too,” she posted on Twitter in celebration.

In other landmark wins, Stephanie Byers became the US’ first transgender Native American state legislator after winning election to the Kansas House of Representatives, and Mauree Turner became Oklahoma’s first Muslim politician and the first non-binary state legislator in the country.

By Wednesday night AEDT, at least 117 of a record 574 LGBTQI+ candidates on the ballot had won, nine of them transgender, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

“Tonight’s wins for LGBTQ people of colour and transgender Americans across the country are historic and long overdue,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the LGBTQI+ rights organisation GLAAD.

“Their victories represent a leap forward for LGBTQ acceptance and a demand for more of the progress and equality that their very presence demonstrates.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.  


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Published 5 November 2020 at 3:15pm
By Evan Young