Tuesday's elections brought a slate of diverse candidates into office

Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Racial minorities and LGBTQ candidates picked up historic wins in races across the country Tuesday. They included two openly transgender politicians, African-Americans who prevailed in several mayoral races and the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey.

-- A transgender woman, Latinas and an Asian-American win in Virginia

Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state legislature. Roem, a Democrat from Virginia's Prince William County in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, unseated her opponent, incumbent Robert Marshall. Marshall had refused to refer to Roem by female pronouns, described himself as the state's "chief homophobe," and was the architect of a failed "bathroom bill" that would prevent transgender people from using bathrooms of their choosing.

Roem, a former journalist, wasn't the only person to achieve a first in Virginia, a traditionally conservative state that has increasingly leaned Democratic as its population has become more diverse.

Voters chose two Democrats -- Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala -- as the state's first Latina delegates. Vietnamese-American Kathy Tran, a Democrat, also became the state's first Asian-American delegate.

-- A refugee will become mayor of Helena, Mont.

In Montana's state capital, Helena, voters chose Wilmot Collins as mayor. Collins and his wife fled to the U.S. from Liberia in the 1990s as refugees. He beat incumbent Jim Smith, who has been in office since 2001.

A U.S. resident for 23 years, Collins became a citizen after he was resettled in Montana and went on to work on child protection issues in the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

He is also the first black mayor since the city was incorporated.

-- African-American mayors in North Carolina, Minnesota, Georgia and South Carolina

In Charlotte, N.C., Democrat Vi Lyles beat Republican Kenny Smith to become the city's first black female mayor. Lyles was Charlotte's assistant city manager.

In St. Paul, Minn., Melvin Carter III, an African-American, became the first racial minority to win a mayoral race.

African-American candidates also made history in Cairo, Ga.; Statesboro, Ga., and Georgetown, S.C., which each elected its first black mayor: Booker Gainor, Jonathan McCollar and Brendon Barber, respectively.

-- The first Sikh mayor of New Jersey


Hoboken City Councilman Ravinder Bhalla, an Indian-American who was born in New Jersey, become the state's first Sikh mayor.

"Thank you for having faith in me, for having faith in our community, faith in our state, and faith in our country; this is what America is all about," he told supporters after the win, according to the Jersey Journal.

-- LGBTQ, Hispanic and women candidates take wins

In Seattle, Jenny Durkan won 61 percent of the vote in the mayoral race, making her the first woman to become mayor of the city since the 1920s. Durkan will also be the first openly lesbian mayor of the city.

Also in Seattle, Zachary DeWolf will be the first openly gay person to sit on the school board.

In Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins won a seat on the city council, which will make her the first openly transgender black woman to serve in public office in the country.

In Palm Springs, Lisa Middleton will be the first transgender person to serve in a nonjudicial office in California after being elected to the Palm Springs City Council.

Topeka, Kan., elected its second woman mayor, Michelle De La Isla. She will be the first Latina in the position.

In Provo, Utah, voters made Michelle Kaufusi the city's first woman mayor.

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