Danica Roem at a Protest against Trans Military Ban, White House, Washington, DC USA, Photo by Ted Eytan via Wikimedia Commons/ CC 2.0
Amidst a year full of troubling political news, there has been more than a couple of big wins for female politicians across the nation. In the 2017 November elections, there were reasons to celebrate and hope that the tides have begun to turn. The unwavering strength of the resistance is evident in each of the political wins, some of which have been highlighted below.
Andrea Jenkins is the nation’s first openly transgender black woman to be elected to a public office. Jenkins won a seat on the City Council of Minneapolis representing Ward 8 with roughly 73 percent of the vote. She based much of her running platform on her work on improving the ward’s neighborhoods and addressing youth violence, which she plans to continue working on while in office. Of her recent win, Jenkins said, “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.”
Michelle De La Isla is the first Latina to be mayor of Topeka. Homeless at seventeen, pregnant, and now a single mother of three after escaping an abusive marriage, De La Isla had the odds stacked against her. Regardless, she narrowly won the mayorship and showed her youngest daughter, as her daughter put it, that she “can do anything.” Previously, De La Isla served Topekans by having a seat in the City Council, running Topeka Habitat for Humanity, and counseling people about their financial credit.
Sheila Oliver is New Jersey’s first black lieutenant governor. Currently the Assembly Speaker in New Jersey, Oliver will now be the second highest-ranking official in the state. She was the first black woman to be New Jersey’s Assembly Speaker and has served in the lower house of the state legislature for thirteen years. During her victory speech, Oliver said “This may not have been the first glass ceiling I have broken, but it is certainly the highest. I hope somewhere in this great state of New Jersey a young girl of color is watching tonight and realizing she does not have a limit to how high she can go.”
Danica Roem is the first openly transgender elected official in a state legislation in the United States. Roem beat Robert G. Marshall, a 13-term incumbent who self-proclaimed himself to be Virginia’s “chief homophobe,” for a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Once it was clear Roem had won, she declared, “This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.” Her comment was partially in response to Marshall’s ads which disparaged Roem’s transgender identity. Roem will be using her time in office to focus on local issues, such as traffic.
Mazahir Salih is the first Sudanese American elected official in the United States. First announcing her campaign on the day of Trump’s “Travel Ban 2.0,” the hijabi Muslim immigrant just won a seat on Iowa City’s Council. She is the first Muslim woman and immigrant to serve on the council. Salih ran on a platform of “expanding affordable housing, improving local transportation, and promoting quality jobs.” In addition, she hopes to bring those typically disconnected from politics, such as low-wage and immigrant residents, to policy discussions to discuss their ideas and concerns.
Jenny Durkan is Seattle’s first female mayor since the 1920’s as well as the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. There is only one other openly lesbian mayor in the country, Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City. The race for mayor mainly focused on the city’s economy as Amazon expands in Seattle, and Durkan, backed by the city’s business and labor establishment, appealed to voters. During the campaign, Durkan had a message for the country’s president: “Can I just say, Donald Trump, keep your hands off Seattle.”
Kathy Tran is one of the first Asian-American women to be elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates. Tran won the seat for the 42nd District, replacing the GOP Republican Del. David Albo who served for 24 years but did not run for re-election this year. Inspired by her experience as a refugee from Vietnam where she fled violence and persecution, she wants to build a more welcoming culture for immigrants in the United States. Tran states that, “What we need to do is open our arms and our hearts to people who want to work hard and to create bright futures for themselves and their families, and to give back to their new homeland.”
These and many more victories on November 7, highlight the determination of millions across the country to defiantly stand up to Trump and his administration. On this year’s ballot, Virginia and New Jersey saw the most female candidates in at least a decade as more women are running for office. We hope that this surge of energy and momentum continues into the midterm elections next year and are confident in the women who made history on that November night.