LGBT, minority candidates see historic wins

As Democrats nabbed two major gubernatorial races, Election Day Tuesday was also a historic night for a number of minority and LGBT candidates.

Former journalist Danica Roem became the nation’s first openly transgender woman elected to a state legislature. Roem unseated Virginia delegate Robert Marshall, who described himself as “chief homophobe” and reportedly referred to Roem during the campaign with male pronouns.

But Roem held steady.

“No matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, who you love, how you identify, or any other inherent identifier that you have … that if you have good public policy ideas, if you’re well-qualified for office, bring those ideas to the table because this is your America too,” she said in her victory speech Tuesday night.

Roem added, “Discrimination is a disqualifier.”

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Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, cautioned that such victories in an off-year election might not have an immediate effect on the 2018 midterms.

“These elections are notable and noteworthy but it’s going to be years before we know what the long-term impact is on diversifying the candidate pool,” Gillespie told ABC News today.

In Minnesota, Andrea Jenkins is the first African-American transgender woman to win a council seat in a major city after she won a spot on Minneapolis’ City Council.

Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via APAndrea Jenkins hugs a supporter as she won the Minneapolis Ward 8: Council Member race in Minneapolis, Nov. 7, 2017.

Out West, Jenny Durkan, who was the first openly gay U.S. attorney, will be Seattle’s first openly lesbian mayor.

Virginia voters sent two Latinas — Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala — and an Asian American woman, Kathy Tran, to the statehouse for the first time.

In the same state, Justin Fairfax, after claiming victory in the race for lieutenant governor, is the first African-American to win a statewide office in Virginia since 1989.

In New Jersey, City Councilman Ravi Bhalla became the state’s first Sikh mayor after his election in Hoboken.

Bhalla’s turban-wearing likeness was plastered last week on leaflets under red letters that read, “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town!”

“I don’t know who put it out, but it’s very hurtful,” Bhalla, 44, a New Jersey native, told ABC News last week. “My skin is thick at this point … however, this has really impacted my family, especially my daughter.”

He also tweeted: “Of course this is troubling, but we won’t let hate win.”

In New Jersey’s Atlantic County, Democrat and first-time candidate Ashley Bennett beat Republican John Carman for his seat in the county’s legislature, according to The Associated Press. Bennett’s decision to run against Carman came after she confronted him about a meme he shared on Facebook in January, which asked whether the Women’s March in Washington would be “over in time for them to cook dinner.”

“Someone had to run against him, who actually wanted to represent all of the residents in my district, not just men or the special group of women he thought were worthy of his time. And I decided that person should be me,” Bennett wrote in a Facebook post from October.

A few mayoral races also made history: In North Carolina, Vi Lyles was elected Charlotte’s first female African-American mayor and, in Minnesota, Melvin Carter was elected St. Paul’s first African-American mayor.

“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 told her supporters Tuesday night, according to the Charlotte Observer.