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Minorities, LGBT make history in 2018 midterms

Congress will see its first Native American and Muslim women. And Colorado elected the nation's first openly gay governor during the 2018 midterms.

Posted: Nov 7, 2018 7:11 PM
Updated: Nov 7, 2018 7:19 PM

Suburban and college-educated women issued a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump and his agenda Tuesday night, one that represents a real threat to Republican hopes of holding the White House in 2020.

It was a triumphant night for women across the political spectrum -- the culmination of a wave of anger and women's marches that followed Trump's election in 2016 and the #MeToo movement that inspired so many young women to run for office for the first time.

If the President paid attention to the yawning gender gap in Tuesday's results -- with 59% of women supporting Democrats and 40% backing Republicans -- he showed no sign of self-reflection or contrition during his self-described victory lap at a news conference Wednesday.

In keeping with his pattern of the past three years, Trump once again demonstrated his often rough, condescending handling of women -- in this case, female reporters during his news conference -- which has alienated many female voters.

The looming difficulties that lie ahead for Republicans with minority voters in states like Texas, Arizona and Nevada were laid bare in the exit polls. Nearly three-quarters of Latino women and 92% of African-American women supported Democratic candidates. White women broke evenly, with 49% backing Republicans and 49% supporting Democrats.

Trump attempted to address his party's gulf with women in the final day of the campaign by taking top advisers like Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Sanders, his daughter Ivanka Trump and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on the trail with him.

At his final rally Monday night in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Trump said he had "always thought" that women are smarter than men. "Sorry, men," he added. But his last-minute effort did not appear to have much of an impact.

EMILY's List claimed victory in many of the districts where it had helped women organize and raise money.

"In district after district and led by a huge turnout from women voters, seats have been flipped -- ousting Republicans who have failed their constituents and electing women at a record-setting pace to take their places," said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List. "This wave would have been impossible without a strong and diverse class of US House candidates -- the powerful, pro-choice Democratic women who fought tirelessly to win their elections tonight. We could not be more excited to see them sworn in this January. History has been made and we're never going back."

Beyond the Beltway on Tuesday night, the year of the woman became the night of the woman. Though ballots are still being counted, it is clear there will be record representation of women in the House, with at least 100 women serving next year, breaking the previous record of 85, which was set during the 114th Congress in 2015-16.

There will also be a new bar for diversity, with at least 38 women of color serving simultaneously in the House, breaking the previous record of 34, according to the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics.

The first two Native American women elected to the House, Democrats Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids of Kansas, are headed to Washington. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will be the first two Muslim women in Congress.

On the Republican side, California District 39 candidate Young Kim appeared poised to become the first Korean-American woman elected to the House. In Tennessee, longtime Trump supporter US Rep. Marsha Blackburn defeated former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen to become the first female senator from Tennessee.

Republican Kim Reynolds became the first female elected governor in Iowa, after being appointed to fill the slot. And the Hawkeye State elected two Democrats, Cindy Axne in the 3rd District and Abbie Finkenauer in the 1st District, as its first female members of Congress.

Sixteen women were running for governor in Tuesday's election. Some of those races are still in doubt, but there were some historic firsts. The marquee race in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams is running to become the first African-American female governor in America, could be headed to a runoff.

South Dakota Republican US Rep. Kristi Noem became that state's first female governor. In Kansas, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly pulled off a surprise win as Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was best known for his harsh immigration rhetoric, went down in defeat.

Overall, there will be at least nine female governors, which ties the current record for the most serving simultaneously.

The race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona is still too close to call, but either Republican Rep. Martha McSally or Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema will become the state's first female senator after their bruising race in that rapidly diversifying state.

In Nevada, Democratic US Rep. Jacky Rosen vanquished Republican Sen. Dean Heller in a pickup for her party, and when all the votes are counted Nevada's could become the first female-majority Statehouse.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hailed the record numbers of women joining her in Washington on Wednesday, but she said the Democratic agenda would not change much -- because she would be steering them toward the entire range of issues, from the economy and financial institutions to national security.

"We view every issue as a women's issue," the California Democrat said. "We believe the national security of our county is a women's issue. The economic security of our country ... issues related to energy and the rest. They're women's issues."

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