Things That Matter

Election Night 2021 Was Major for POC Politicians Across the Country

Read any headline from this week’s election results and you’ll likely walk away thinking it was a dramatic night that saw Democrats across the country fail to win seats. And although that was largely true — even the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor lost his race — it was still a night full of major milestones for candidates of color.

Democrats didn’t perform well in races all over the nation.

Although it was expected that Democrats — President Biden’s party — would see a tough election night this year, few expected the dramatic conclusions that unfolded as results poured in.

In Virginia, a state that has been trending blue and was won by Joe Biden in 2020 by 10 points, the Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin beat Terry McAuliffe, a former Democratic governor.

In New Jersey, although incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy won, the race was way too close for comfort for many on the left. The race should have been easy considering the state heavily leans Democratic and Joe Biden carried the state in 2020 by 16 points.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. “There is hope within the President’s circle that the treacherous political environment could ease next year,” a Biden advisor told CNN. Many are counting on the president to beat the pandemic and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which would finally show voters some much needed progress on issues they care about.

Boston has its first female mayor and very first person of color in the top office.

Up until this week, for almost 400 years, the City of Boston has had a white male as mayor. That all changed this week when Bostonians elected Michelle Wu as mayor.

“One of my sons asked me the other night if boys can be elected mayor of Boston. They have been, and they will again some day, but not tonight,” Wu told supporters Tuesday night. “On this day, Boston elected your mom because from every corner of our city, Boston has spoken.”

Mayor-elect Michelle Wu won a historic mayoral election, according to the Boston Globe, after sweeping her opponent by nearly 30 points. Wu is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants and had already made history in 2016 as the first Asian American to serve as president of the City Council.

New York City elected the second Black mayor in the city’s history.

Former police officer Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York City, after the Democrat defeated Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels — a volunteer citizens group. Adams will now take charge of the largest city in the U.S. in January, when he will be faced with overseeing recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 34,500 New Yorkers.

Adams is only the second Black mayor in the city’s history and is largely considered a moderate Democrat. As a centrist he is seen as a disappointing choice for many progressives who hoped to see radical reforms in the criminal justice system.

Tampa Bay has elected its first Black mayor.

Although the theme from this week’s elections was largely one of disappointment among Democrats, things in Tampa Bay couldn’t have been more different. There, not only did residents elect their first Black mayor, but local offices also saw a record number of Democrats get elected.

Tampa now has its first Hispanic City Council member, Lisset Hanewicz, and first Democratic Socialist — not just locally, but in the state’s recent history.

Pittsburgh also made history with a first Black mayor.

Pittsburgh voters on Tuesday chose state Rep. Ed Gainey as the city’s 61st mayor — and the first Black man to lead the once-booming steel town that has grown more varied in recent decades as the economy has diversified.

“I’ve always wanted to have a city that was inclusive of everybody, where everybody felt they could make it here, a city where no one felt left behind,” Gainey told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I was thinking this is the greatest time to build a bridge between yesterday and today, the greatest time to talk about why we need to be diverse, why we need to keep our real estate affordable and why we need to be safe.”

And in Mesquite, Texas, voters elected their first mayor of color, third-generation Mexican-American, Daniel Aleman.

Aleman won the election becoming the first person of color to win the office, and the first Mexican-American elected to the city’s highest office. He defeated Ron Ward — who would have been the city’s first Black mayor — with 59% of the votes, according to unofficial election results from the city.

The headlines from this week’s races weren’t exactly encouraging for progressive candidates, but when you dig a little deeper there are many important races to be thankful for. And many of those were led by strong, progressive, people of color.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

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