Friday, 16 November, 2018

Rights of women, gays, minorities advanced across U.S. in midterms

09 Nov 2018, 12:03 ( 7 days ago)

DF-Xinhua Report by Peter Mertz
A voter casts her ballot at a polling station in Manhattan of New York Nov. 6, 2018. The U.S. Republican Party on Tuesday managed to maintain a Senate majority in the midterm elections, while the Democrats wrestled the House majority from the Republicans, according to projections of multiple news outlets. Photo Xinhua.

While both Democrats and Republicans were debating the results of Tuesday's 2018 vote, few disputed the fact that a record number of women, gays, and other minorities gained political power in the pivotal mid-term elections.

   "Backlash has officially begun," said Washington political analyst David Richardson. "What has been growing since (U.S. President Donald) Trump took office was shown at the polls. Pockets of discontent, namely gays, women, and minorities, gained significant ground as the result of national outrage."

   Trump campaigned heavily for a number of Republicans who lost on Tuesday, an election seen as a referendum on the president's performance in his first two years.

   From coast to coast, and particularly in America's West, from a pair of Native American women, to a Muslim Somali refugee, to the first openly gay man elected governor, the 2018 midterms saw a series of history-making votes from people and groups who openly oppose polarized conservative direction.

 

   COLORADO STANDS OUT

   A century ago, Colorado was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, and, in 1992 was dubbed a "hate state" after voters approved a ban on municipal anti-discrimination laws to protect gay people.

   In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional, and Colorado has seen a steady influx of educated, young millennials ever since, who have tipped the scales in favor of the Democrats.

   "Colorado is changing," said University of Colorado graduate student Alex Mendel on Wednesday. "We represent the new America -- young professionals who accept others, and are politically aware and active. Needless to say, the state is swinging to the left these days," he told Xinhua.

   Colorado went to Democratic presidential challenger Hilary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

   "We are an inclusive state," Jared Polis said in his victory speech Wednesday. He is the first openly gay governor to be elected in the history of the United States.

   "Tonight, right here in Colorado, we proved that we're an inclusive state that values every contribution," he told the media after the decisive, 7-point landmark win.

   "We elected the first Native American to Congress (Ben Nighthorse Campbell in 1993), and the voters are not afraid to take a stance against popular opinion," he added.

   Polis is also the state's first Jewish governor, and acknowledged his historic victory by introducing his partner, Marlon Reis, as "the first, first man in the history of Colorado," in his speech.

   "Simply put, this is an unprecedented and historic night," said Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, the state's largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. "Tonight, voters rejected hate and division and elected leaders who will represent and fight for all of their constituents, no matter who they are or who they love."

   Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who is identified as bisexual, was the first openly LGBT person to be elected governor in 2013, but Polis is the first man.

   On Tuesday, Oregon voters returned Brown to the statehouse, despite heavy backing by national Republicans for her opponent Knute Buhler. Phil Knight of Nike gave 2.5 million U.S. dollars to the Republican candidate for governor.

   "It was a good night for Democrats in Oregon," said former U.S. State Department official Stewart King. "Our LGBT governor won re-election, in a marked manner in a race that looked really tight in the polls," King told Xinhua on Wednesday.

   "Oregonians don't like people trying to buy our elections," said King, referring to the money spent by conservatives to defeat Brown.

   In another blow toward anti-gay sentiment in America, Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed in 2015 for refusing to grant same-sex marriage licenses, lost her bid for re-election Tuesday against Democrat Elwood Caudill Jr., according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

   Davis, citing religious reasons, became a conservative icon following her controversial refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples after same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States in 2015.

   On Tuesday, conservative Kentucky voters ended her tenure and her 80,000 U.S. dollars a year job.

   In Texas, the number of openly LGBTQ lawmakers doubled when Jessica Gonzalez and Julie Johnson, who are lesbians, were elected to represent the Dallas area, and Erin Zwiener, who is bisexual, was chosen to represent central Texas.

   Gonzalez and Johnson will be the first openly gay lawmakers to represent Dallas-Fort Worth. All three ran as Democrats.

   "I'm very happy," Chuck Smith, CEO of the LGBTQ-rights group Equality Texas, said in a statement Wednesday.

   "I do believe the results tonight, especially in the Texas House of Representatives, demonstrate that rabidly homophobic or transphobic values and an interest in pursuing that kind of legislative agenda are not mainstream," he added.

   On the East Coast, Chris Pappas, another Democrat, became the first openly gay congressman from New Hampshire on Tuesday.

 

   WOMEN TIME

   A record number of women won seats in the U.S. House or Representative Tuesday, in a massive night for female candidates across the political spectrum.

   Although final election results may take several more days to tabulate, as of Wednesday, CNN projected 96 women would win House races, with 31 women newly elected to the House and 65 female incumbents, topping the previous record of 85 representatives, according to the Congressional Research Service.

   Tuesday saw the first two Native American women elected to Congress -- Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, from Kansas and New Mexico -- both running as Democrats.

   Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Haaland is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, according to their respective campaigns.  Davids identifies as a lesbian, making her the first openly LGBT member of Congress from Kansas as well.

   "Trump seizing sacred Indian land and making encouraging statements about White nationalist groups helped energize us against him," said Loni Keppa, a member of the Sioux nation in South Dakota, "I don't think you'll find many Native Americans who support or like Trump."

   Despite Trump's open antipathy against Muslims and his restrictions on the immigration of people from Muslim countries, Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will become the first Muslim women in Congress.

   Omar, in addition to being one of the first Muslim women in Congress, is also the first Somali-American member. She came to America two decades ago as a refugee.

   Although final results aren't expected until this weekend, Arizona is guaranteed to elect its first woman senator, with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and GOP Martha McSally locked in a tight race, with the Republican narrowly leading by 49.4 to 48.4 percent.

   In Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn became the first female senator to represent the red state when she outlasted a challenge from former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, who tried to run against his party to win in a state Trump won by 26 percentage points in 2016.

   Blackburn, a conservative lawmaker closely tied to the president, successfully nationalized the Senate race, tapping into the same conservatism that elected Trump in 2016. Trump visited the state three times on her behalf.

   And in Texas, voters elected the state's first two Hispanic women to Congress as Veronica Escobar won the seat to replace Rep. Beto O'Rourke in the congressional district near El Paso.

   In nearby Houston, another Latino, State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, won a seat at Congress which was relinquished by the retiring Democratic Rep. Gene Green.

   And in traditionally conservative South Dakota, Republican Kristi Noem will become South Dakota's first female governor, after defeating another woman candidate, Democrat Billie Sutton.

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