A Night of Firsts: Women Won Big and Made History in Tuesday’s Elections

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the 2016 elections, voters across the country delivered historic wins for women candidates.

In Virginia, Democrat Danica Roem made history as the first openly transgender person elected to serve in a state legislature. Roem’s victory was sweetened by her defeat of self-proclaimed “chief homophobe” Del. Bob Marshall, who introduced a bathroom bill seeking to ban trans people from using restrooms that matched their gender identity and would go out of his way to misgender and mock Roem’s gender identity on the campaign trail. She won with 54 percent of the vote. “Danica Roem’s historic victory is a clear warning to anti-equality lawmakers across the country,” said HRC President Chad Griffin, “that the days of attacking LGBTQ people to scare up votes are over.”

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins won a City Council seat—making history as the first openly transgender Black woman elected to public office in the U.S. and the second openly transgender candidate to ever win a political race. (After the victory, Jenkins fittingly tweeted a link to “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled.)

In New Jersey, Sheila Oliver became the state’s first Black lieutenant governor after her running mate, Democrat Phil Murphy, won the governor’s race. In Charlotte, North Carolina, Democrat Vi Lyles became the first Black female mayor in the city’s history, defeating Republican Kenny Smith with about 58 percent of the vote. (Lyles is also the first city administrator to ascend to the mayor’s office, having served three decades in city hall.)“You’ve proven that a woman whose father didn’t graduate from high school can become this city’s first female African-American mayor,” Lyles said to voters on election night.

In Virginia,Kathy Tran, a refugee from Vietnam, became the first Asian American woman elected to the state house; Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala, who helped organize the Women’s March, became the first two Latinas elected to the body—defeating Republican incumbents andflipping their districts in the process. “I built my campaign on the promise of fair and equal representation of our community in all of its wonderful diversity.” Ayala said in a statement on election night. “I intend to make sure Richmond hears our local voices… After tonight, our work begins.”

Democrat Jenny Durkan became the first lesbian elected mayor of Seattle. Durkan is also the first woman to be mayor since the 1920s. In her victory speech Durkan pointed out that it’s been 92 years since Seattle had a female mayor. “Just imagine what they’re going to blame on me,” Durkan said.

But Tuesday’s victories extended past the trailblazing women who became “firsts.” Across the country, feminist issues took center stage—and swayed election outcomes. Proudly pro-choice Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial election; Larry Krasner, who represented Black Lives Matter activists and was supported by them on the campaign trail, became Philadelphia’s District Attorney.

Feminists have long faced down opposition and oppression in the fight for women’s equality—and a year after Hillary Clinton’s shocking and devastating defeat, voters have re-affirmed that they are still standing strong on the frontlines.Yesterday’s elections reminded feminists across the country that the resistance is powerful—and that people power can and will stop the Trump administration from undoing centuries of progress.



Lynn Rosado is an editorial intern at Ms. She studied at California State University, Northridge, where she received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism.