A Record Number of Women and LGBTQ Candidates Win Midterm Races as Democrats Take Back the House

This article was written by Heather Hogan and Natalie Duggins

Last night was a roller coaster of emotions as we watched the 2018 midterms results roll in, but the major story is one that allowed us to breathe a small sigh of relief for the first time in two years: Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives, which means Donald Trump will finally face some checks and oversight. Or, as Vox put it, “Democrats now have the power to make Trump’s life hell.” They can subpoena his tax returns, investigate everything from Russian election collusion to the ways his businesses are unethically benefitting from his presidency. And they will. They already have a list. It’s very long.

The House flip also means Republicans can’t try to ram through any more Obamacare repeals, cruel social services cuts, or enormous tax breaks for the wealthy. In fact, Republicans aren’t even going to get those bills to the floor for debate without the approval of the Democratic leadership. “Let’s hear it for pre-existing conditions [coverage],” presumed Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi cheered when she came out to give a speech after it was clear Democrats would regain control of the House.

A lot of other really exciting things happened.


Historic Wins for LGBTQ Candidates

It was a banner night for LGBTQ candidates. A rainbow wave, you might even say. More LGBTQ candidates won races across the country than ever before.

Sharice Davids toppled four-term incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder to win Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District. She’s the first LGBTQ person from Kansas elected to serve in the House and she joins New Mexico’s Deb Haaland, who also won her first election, as the first Native American woman to be elected to Congress. Senator Tammy Baldwin won reelection easily in Wisconsin, as did Oregon Governor Kate BrownAngie Craig beat out notoriously homophobic Republican incumbent Jason Lewis in Minnesota’s 2nd District, which was a huge win for Democrats targeting suburban Midwesterners (who seem to have serious buyers’ remorse on Trump, according to the way they voted yesterday, including finally ousting Scott Walker from his Wisconsin governorship).

We also counted a record 47 LGBTQ women who won seats in state legislatures!

+ Georgia: Jennifer Webb, Park Cannon, Karla Drenner, and Renitta Shannon.

+ North Carolina: Deb Butler, Allison Dahle, Marcia Morey, and Bonnie Dawn Clark.

+ Ohio: Nickie J. Antonio

+ Connecticut: Beth Bye.

+ Maryland: Bonnie Cullison, Anne Kaiser, Maggie McIntosh, and Mary Washington.

+ Massachusetts: Kate Hogan, Elizabeth Malia, and Sarah Peake.

+ New Hampshire: Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker.

+ Rhode Island: Deb Ruggiero.

+ Illinois: Kelly Cassidy and Maggie Trevor.

+ Kansas: Susan Ruiz.

+ Oklahoma: Kay Floyd.

+ Texas: Jessica González, Mary González, Celia Israel, Julie Johnson, and Erin Zwiener.

+ Arkansas: Tippi McCullough.

+ New York: Deborah Glick.

+ Wisconsin: Marisabel Cabrera and JoCasta Zamarripa.

+ Colorado: Daneya Esgar, Sonya Jaquez Lewis, Joann Ginal, and Leslie Herod.

+ Iowa: Liz Bennett.

+ Montana: Kim Abbott and Andrea Olsen.

+ California: Susan Eggman.

+ Oregon: Tina Kotek and Karin A. Power.

+ Washington: Laurie Jinkins, Christine Kilduff, Nicole Macri, Emily Randall, and Claire Wilson.

(Some state races are too close to call at this point, so this list is likely to grow. We’ll update it throughout the day.)

In Colorado, Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected Governor, which, as many savvy Twitter users have pointed out, means Masterpiece Cake Shop homophobe Jack Phillips will now be governed by a gay. Chris Pappas became New Hampshire’s first openly gay Congressman. Key West’s Teri Johnson became the first lesbian mayor in Florida. And Beth Bashert became Ypsilanti, Michigan’s first lesbian mayor.


More Women Than Ever Were Elected to Congress

These midterms were historic for the number of firsts and for the overall number of women who ran for and were elected to office. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, a record 428 women ran for Congress or governor; 210 won their primaries and made it to general election day; and over 100 won last night. One-third of those were women of color. Among them, as mentioned above, are Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, the first Native American women elected to Congress. Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar are the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar will be the first Latinx women from Texas to serve in CongressAyanna Pressley will be the first Black woman from Massachusetts to serve in Congress. And Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who shocked the world when she won her primary earlier this year, coasted to victory; at 29, she’s the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.


Yes on 3

One of the biggest LGBTQ wins of the night came in Massachusetts, where voters overwhelmingly chose to protect a trans rights law that was passed two years ago to ensure trans people are able to use public accommodations that match their gender identity. It’s the first time a state has defended trans rights by popular vote, and it was an enormous victory. 19 other states have passed protections for trans people in the last few years, and if Massachusetts — one of the most historically LGBTQ-friendly states — had voted to overturn their relatively new law, activists feared a wave of similar steps backward around the country.

The National Center for Transgender Equality called Tuesday’s vote “a stunning rebuke of anti-transgender lies and prejudice.” Mason Dunn, the Yes on 3 co-chair, said, “Voters here in Massachusetts have sent a powerful, unmistakable message that this is a state that values, welcomes, and honors transgender people.”


Florida Amendment 4

Another huge victory on Tuesday came out of Florida, where voters approved Amendment 4 by a 60%+ supermajority, which will automatically restore voting rights to around 1.5 million people who were previously convicted of felonies. Obviously Black citizens, who are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated, will be most affected by this groundbreaking vote (as will the Democratic party).

Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that Florida’s Jim Crow era voting restoration policy — which has only approved 3,000 people since 2011 — was unconstitutional. “Elected, partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines, or standards,” the judge wrote. “Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration… The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not.”

Kentucky and Iowa are now the only states that completely ban people from voting, even after completing their felony sentences.


More to Come

Tuesday’s election results were not without their heartbreaks. Andrew Gillum narrowly lost the Florida Governor’s race, despite running a nearly perfect campaign. Beto O’Rourke, who looked like he really might unseat Ted Cruz in Texas’ Governor’s race for most of the night, lost by a slim margin. Alabama approved the most anti-abortion ballot measure since Roe vs. Wade; in a sweeping victory, voters agreed to add a state constitutional amendment to protect “the rights of unborn children.” (They also voted for an amendment to ensure public officials can display the Ten Commandments on public property.) West Virginia voters approved a similar anti-abortion amendment, which will change the state Constitution to read “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” And Republicans maintained control of the Senate, which they were expected to do, and which will continue to empower them to stack the courts with Conservative judges.

There are still some races up in the air.

As of this morning, Stacey Abrams — whose supporters faced rampant, unmitigated voter suppression and gerrymandering —  is losing the Georgia Governor’s race by less than 100,000 votes. She has promised not to concede to her vile opponent until every vote is counted; her team believes there are still enough votes out there for her to force a run-off.

LGBTQ candidate Gina Ortiz Jones is neck-and-neck with Will Hurd in Texas’ 23rd District. And in Arizona, bisexual candidate Kyrsten Sinema is in a near-tie in her Senate race; many forecasters think it will be later this week before we officially get those results.

The fight is going to be as fierce as ever in the coming years, but Tuesday’s results finally gave us some much-needed hope.


11/8/18 Update: Katie Hill has bested Steve Knight in California’s 25th Congressional District.

11/11/18 Update: In Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, Republican Will Hurd has claimed victory, but Gina Ortiz Jones has refused to concede until every ballot is counted.

11/12/18 Update: After a week of meticulous ballot counting, Cook Political Report has called the Arizona Senate race for bisexual candidate Kyrsten Sinema. She will be the first Democrat to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate in 25 years. She will also join Tammy Baldwin as the only other openly LGBTQ Senator.

We will continue update this post as more information becomes available. 

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Heather has written 720 articles for us.

35 Comments

  1. Despite several candidates I was rooting for losing, the Yes on 3 kept me at least happy for that and I’m so proud of and happy for all the representation we are starting to get! Hope is starting to come back, we just have to keep going for a few more years together!

  2. I’m buoyed with hope this morning! I’m thrilled that my hero Tammy Baldwin won early in the night, and I’m glad I could vote for her again. I’m also happy that JoCasta Zamarripa won re-election! She’s a great person and a true champion of LGBTQIA rights here in WI – she helped introduce a comprehensive, trans-inclusive nondiscrimination bill in the last Assembly session, and I believe there are plans to reintroduce it again in 2019. I wish the legislature had gone bluer, especially for that reason, but the fight continues.

    The defeat of Gov. Walker and AG Schimel has also been a long time coming! Those two pushed for discriminating against trans people on the state employee health plan back in 2016 (all in the name of undermining the ACA). Not only are they now gone, but trans-inclusive coverage is coming back to those health plans! I’m beyond relieved.

  3. It also too close to call, but as of right now, Putin’s favorite politician and known homophobe(he’s been quoted saying you don’t have to sell/rent homes to gay people) Dana Rohrabacher(15 term) is loosing to democrate Harley Rouda for California’s 48th district, Costal Oranage County. It’s generally well of WAPS, but 2016 and 2018 it’s turned more blue-sh shade of purple.

  4. I want to hold space for disappointment and rage (those anti-abortion amendments??), but I’m feeling goooood about this election. Like the RGB says, there’s not a convo to be had about “too many women” until every seat is held by a woman (but lets be real: POC, queer, trans, disabled, any and all underrepresented groups too), but sending record numbers of women to Congress, and the the first Muslim and Native women being in their numbers, is a move in the right direction. And queer women flipping districts held by white hetcis homophobic men feels SO GOOD.

  5. I’m not getting it.
    After everything Trump has pulled these past two years Republicans actually gained senate seats and the house race was way too close.
    Key races like Florida and Texas were lost.
    So many republican governors elected.
    Every single republican vote is an outrage, a sign of hate, ignorance, racism and sexism, and the multitude of them has disheartened and angered me considerably.
    These elections have just narrowly managed to put a wrench into the worst,which is unmitigated gop control of all branches, but I am very sorry, as a European these results are outrageous.
    What the gop is standing for is outrageous and what these elections proved is, that it’s not just a few voters high on false promises, but that a large part of Americans want this.

    • Well as a European, specifically a German European, a study just made its way into the news today that we now apparently have 6% solid all round fascists (i.e. five million), and between 1/3 and 1/2 of the general population (~30 million) agree to different extremely ugly/ racist/ antisemitic/ fascist opinions, …
      sooo I guess, outrageous midterm results? yes, but this isn’t US specific, we’re all in this together (look at Europe’s many right wing/ fascist governments, especially the Eastern countries) and have to work/ organize our way out of this. People are getting lost in social media’s racist nightmare feedback loops, and we haven’t yet found a way to stop that. … so what I’m taking out of the U.S. elections, as a European, is finding inspiration in/ studying strategies that locally worked against fascists, being glad for the positive change that is happening, and staying in solidarity to those that continue to deal with horrible government bodies and surroundings.

      • Well I am a German as well and we were collectively worried and freaked out by the AfD these past two years for even getting into the government and making a stunning 12% last weekend in Hessen.
        The GOP is AfD level, worse even.
        And I’m just as horrified by Poland,Turkey and Hungary.
        I’m more in a “This is crazy! How is any of this ok?!?” mode anyway.

        • One thing I think you’re overlooking is that the GOP is not a party started 5 years ago like the AfD. Many people have been voting for Republicans for decades, just like many people have been voting for Democrats for decades. And in an era where party affiliation seems so central to people’s identity, you’re not going to get a 180-degree turn from everyone overnight. Many thankfully did make that switch for this election, many continued to vote Republican for the reason(s) they always have, whether that’s Southern-strategy-style racism, tax preferences, or stance on abortion. (This last one CAN’T be overlooked, and I think it accounts for a decent amount of the white women’s Republican vote, which is generally ascribed solely to racism. But that’s a discussion for another day).And too many, I agree, LIKE the direction of the party under Trump.

          It’s also important to understand that there are significant regional variations within the parties in the US. I live in Massachusetts, a very liberal state, but we have a popular Republican governor who just won re-election. I supported his Democratic opponent, but it is 100% inaccurate to call Baker and the people who voted for him fascists. He’s anti-Trump, pro-choice, pro-gun control, and supported the trans rights ballot measure.

    • I expected that the Dems would lose Senate seats. They were defending more seats than the Republicans and 3 of those seats were in states Trump won by over 20% points. I was just hoping that those losses be offset by Dems winning Arizona and Nevada. On top of that white men vote overwhelmingly Republican and the majority of white women vote for the GOP. There is a great deal of voter suppression that happens in minority communities and honestly, Dems don’t do a good job of playing to their base. This comes from a person who has worked on campaigns for 20 years and is in Georgia right now working on Abrams campaign.

      • I REALLY hope this begins to change after the results we’ve seen nationwide. Yeah, the Dems lost Senate seats and stuff, but Beto should not have come NEARLY as close as he did in Texas. And so many other women and POC and LGBTQ folk DID win, so…

  6. Thank you thank you thank you for this! The way you distill all this information in such an intelligent and thoughtful and generous way (I especially like that this is, I think, the only place I’ve seen call those affected by Florida Amendment 4 “people previously convicted of a felony” instead of “ex-felons” — I saw one person on twitter say “previously incarcerated people,” which is also good but not quite accurate, right? I’m going to use yours!) is really something. And it must have been so much work!! I appreciate it a lot.

  7. Now I’m really looking forward to the turnout numbers for this election and how women voted (I puked a little after those 2016’s numbers).

    And I’m also thinking a lot about if the Democrats can keep together that majority in the House, if some moderate Democrats will switch if somebody offers like 30 jobs for their State in exchange for some more fracking… yep, sometimes politics is a very dirty and cheap business.

    Are Alabama and West Virginia, plus other States that have similar amendments, totally getting ready for Kavanaugh’s “big day”, no?

  8. Sorry that I seem to be coming and going but I was working all day and now I finishing making the news rounds (went to bed like 4 am last night but there wasn’t any definitive results at that time).

    Now that I’m done my mind is jammed singing SOS because Cher changed the whole meanning of that song with her video.

    Let the world hear you: WOMEN WILL SAVES US ALL…

  9. I was part of Yes on 3 volunteer leadership in MA, and after the string of 12-hour shifts I pulled helping to run one of the Cambridge canvassing stations, I was so happy to see us mentioned here! Thank you!

  10. I had worked in a newsroom in some kind for four of the past five general/midterm elections (save for 2010) before being let go from my TV job last month. So this election was my first where I got to really speak my mind and use my skills to help my candidates of choice win… and I’m VERY happy with the results.
    First off I did not expect my home state of Wisconsin to FINALLY get rid of Walker, but I’m so glad they did. One of my sisters even voted against him and my best friend said her vote canceled out at least one in her neighborhood (both live in Waukesha County, so…). I was also happy to see Tammy Baldwin get re-elected – and that her race was called so early! Yas.

    My new home state of Minnesota really thrilled me, though. We have elected great people across the board and I feel safer here already as a non-binary queer person of color. (The Republican running for Governor called our state letting non-binary folx get the “X” on their driver’s licenses a joke, and the Republican running for Attorney General is a transphobic racist jerk, to name a few…)

    Also, she’s not my Representative-elect (I have a great ally though!), but I have a girl crush on Angie Craig lol. When the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx (also family!) voices her support for you, you’re in a good place.

    Keep fighting the good fight, everyone. You all deserve to be here.

    • PS: thanks for mentioning the Wisconsin State races, too! Glad to see JoCasta win another term and that a fellow queer Latinx woman of color will be representing my home district! That’s wonderful. 🙂

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