US midterm milestones: Women, LGBTQ and black candidates break barriers

Across the US, women, LGBTQ and black candidates have broken barriers as part of a new generation of politicians elected to governor’s offices and seats in Congress.

The Massachusetts Democrat has become the country’s first openly lesbian candidate to be elected to the office of governor.

In Maryland, voters elected the state’s first black governor.

Vermont will finally send a woman to Congress, after being the only US state not to ever have female representation in the House of Representatives.


Massachusetts governor-elect Maura Healey, center left, during a Democratic election night party in Boston (Michael Dwyer/AP)

The number of women serving as governors will hit double digits for the first time in 2023, with at least 11 women set to lead states.

Nine had already won their races; two other races had not been decided but featured women candidates in both parties.

The US has never had more than nine female governors in office at a time, a record set in 2004, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

One of the winners, Maura Healey, is the first woman to be elected to Massachusetts’ top post and also makes history by becoming the country’s first openly lesbian candidate to be elected governor.

If Democrat Tina Kotek wins Oregon’s gubernatorial race, where The Associated Press has not declared a winner, she may join Ms Healey in making history as a lesbian candidate elected governor.

Maryland voters chose Democrat Wes Moore, who will be the state’s first black governor.


Wes Moore speaks to supporters after he was declared the winner of the Maryland gubernatorial race in Baltimore (Julio Cortez/AP)

He is only the third black candidate in the country to be elected governor.

Mr Moore, a combat veteran, led one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty organizations and campaigned on creating equal opportunity for his state residents.

He flips a governor’s office from Republican to Democratic. The current Republican governor Larry Hogan is term limited.

Florida, meanwhile, is sending the first member of Gen Z to Congress, with the comfortable victory of Democrat Maxwell Frost, a 25-year-old black man with Cuban heritage.


Democratic candidate for Florida’s 10th Congressional District Maxwell Frost celebrates with supporters in Orlando (Stephen M Dowell/Orlando Sentinel, via AP)

Mr Frost campaigned on gun control and Medicare for all and secured high-profile endorsements from progressive US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The seat had been left open when Val Demings decided to run for the Senate but Florida’s 10th District, which includes the Orlando area, is reliably Democratic.

Vermont has already had a female governor but it is the only state that has never sent a woman to Congress.

Democrat Becca Balint, president of the Vermont Senate, will reach that milestone and also become the first openly gay person to fill the state’s single seat in the US House of Representatives.


Becca Balint gives a victory speech in Burlington after being elected Vermont’s first woman and first openly gay person to represent Vermont in Congress (Lisa Rathke/AP)

Other notable firsts include:

– First female governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders will become the first woman governor of Arkansas. Ms Sanders, a Republican, rose to prominence when she served as White House press secretary for former president Donald Trump between 2017 and 2019. Her victory also makes her the first daughter of a former governor to fill the position held by her father. Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007.

– Pennsylvania elects its first black congresswoman

Democratic state representative Summer Lee’s victory in the state’s 12th District makes her Pennsylvania’s first black congresswoman. The Pittsburgh-based House seat was open after Mike Doyle announced his retirement.

– Illinois elects its first Latina congresswoman

Delia Ramirez, a Democrat, defeated Republican Justin Burau to represent Illinois’s 3rd District, in Chicago. Ms Ramirez, 39, was the first Guatemalan American to serve in the Illinois General Assembly.

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