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Historic Wins Signal Sea Change for Women in Politics

A record number of women elected to office this week proves to be a powerful force for change.


A sea change earmarked by sisterhood is upon us, as voters in several states made their voices heard. In an historic political triumph, sisters across the rainbow of colors, sexuality, and gender identity branded their names on political seats, proving that women united is a powerful force.

First up is the state of Virginia, who this week elected its first openly transgender state legislative official in Danica Roem.

Danica Roem

Photo: Danica Roem, photographed by Paul J. Richards| AFP|Getty Images

Roem now becomes one of the first transgender people to win a seat in a United States office, and the first transgender woman elected to a state legislature in the country. Of note is Roem’s win over Bob Marshall, 25-year political veteran, self-described “chief homophobe” and author of Virginia’s “bathroom bill,” a measure designed to keep transgender people from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Roem makes it clear that her goals moving forward are to “build up our infrastructure instead of tearing down each other.”

Of her historic win, she wanted to focus not on “piling on Marshall and his supporters,” but on “working to make Virginia a more inclusive commonwealth—no matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, or how you identify, you should be celebrated for you who are.” Joining Roem in making history in Virginia were Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala, who defeated their Republican opponents to become the first-ever Latinas elected to the commonwealth’s House of Delegates. Not to be outdone, former Vietnamese refugee Kathy Tran has become the first Asian-American woman to join Guzman and Hala as representatives.

Photos: Twitter

Andrea Jenkins too joined her sisters at the political table as the first African-American openly transgender woman of color elected to city council in Minneapolis, MN and the first African-American transgender woman elected to office in the United States. According to the Star Tribune, Jenkins’ winning of 70 percent of the vote helped catapult her to the finish line. Also taking the reigns at the city council of Lancaster, PA is Janet Diaz, its first-ever Latina member.

Andrea Jenkins and Janet Diaz

Photos: Facebook

Newly elected Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Sheila Oliver broke another record of her political career—this is her third hammer to the ubiquitous glass ceiling. Oliver was previously New Jersey’s first African-American female Assembly speaker and only the second African-American female speaker in the history of the United States. Of her latest achievement Oliver noted, “I hope somewhere in this great state of New Jersey, a young girl of color is watching tonight and realizing that she does not have a limit to how high she can go.”

Sheila Oliver

Photo: Sheila Oliver, photographed by Bastiaan Slabbers|NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jenny Durkan joined Seattle’s political ranks as the city’s first lesbian mayor and its first female mayor since 1928. Durkan spoke with pride as she summed up her historic win that earned over 60 percent of the vote. “Ninety-two years later, Seattle’s about to have another woman mayor. How about that? We have to build Seattle as a place where everyone has a home.” San Diego too has a new mayor—the first Latina to hold this title is Cathy Murillo. A councilwoman since 2011, Murillo noted that “we are going to do such good work.”

Jenny Durkan and Cathy Murillo

Photo Source: The Seattle Times (Jenny Durkan)

Photo: Facebook (Cathy Murillo)

Other firsts include:

  • Lisa Middleton, first openly transgender person elected to city council in Palm Springs, CA

  • Vi Lyles, first African-American female mayor of Charlotte, VA

  • Yvonne Spicer, first mayor, and African-American female of Framingham, MA after it's constituents voted to change the “town” to a “city.”

  • Joyce Craig, first female mayor of Manchester, NH

  • Mary Parham Copelan, first female African-American mayor of Milledgeville, GA

  • Laura Curran, first female county executive for New York’s Nassau County

  • Mazahir Salih, first Muslim woman and immigrant to serve on Iowa City Council

Sources: Huffington Post, New York Times, The Advocate, Seattle Times, Star Tribune, Twitter

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