Four Groundbreaking Victories in Tuesday’s Down-Ballot Elections

Tuesday's Democratic victories included a transgender woman who unseated a virulently anti-trans Republican lawmaker in Virginia.

When Danica Roem received an endorsement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in April, she vowed to "fight for a fairer future for working families" in her district and the state at large. Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

It wasn’t just Democrats who saw historic wins on election night in 2017: LGBTQ candidates, people of color, and women also made gains across the country.

Here are some highlights:

Manka Dhingra, Washington State Senate

Manka Dhingra flipped control of the state senate in Washington after she won her race against Republican Jinyoung Englund to represent the state’s 45th District. The victory hands Democrats total control of the Washington state government, meaning they control both legislative chambers and the governorship. The contest for party control over the chamber drew millions from donors across the country, according to NPR.

Dhingra’s campaign website describes her as an “award winning PTSA mom, anti-domestic violence advocate and community leader” who ran “for State Senate to address critical needs in education funding, mental health, violence prevention, and to protect the rights of women.” Among the issues featured on her platform are funding public schools, protecting “the fundamental rights of women and immigrants,” and using science to drive environmental policy.

The race was featured as one of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s (DLCC) “spotlight races.” The committee, which works to elect Democrats in state legislatures, mobilized 150 volunteers and knocked on 7,000 doors in support of Dhingra. She was endorsed by a bevy of pro-choice groups including EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood Votes, as well as progressive organization Democracy for America.

Danica Roem, Virginia House of Delegates

Democrat Danica Roem will represent Virginia’s 13th District after she beat Del. Bob Marshall on Tuesday. She will become the first openly transgender candidate to be elected and seated in a state legislature.

Marshall, who was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1991, is an anti-choice hardliner. He spent decades advocating against reproductive freedoms, first as an employee at the American Life League and later in the state legislature, where he sponsored measures that would have rolled back access to abortion in Virginia. He introduced a discriminatory “bathroom bill” in 2016 that would have regulated the use of public restrooms by transgender people. The measure failed. 

When Roem received an endorsement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in April, she vowed to “fight for a fairer future for working families” in her district and the state at large. Her platform included promises to expand access to pre-kindergarten and increase teacher pay.

Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis City Council

When Andrea Jenkins was elected Tuesday to the Minneapolis City Council in Minnesota to represent Ward 8, she became the first openly transgender Black woman elected to public office in the United States.

“Andrea ran on improving the lives of constituents in her ward, but the significance of her victory for the trans equality movement is undeniable,” Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Americans are growing increasingly aware of trans equality and people, and this win will surely inspire other trans people to run for office and further inclusion in their communities.”

Among the policies highlighted in Jenkins’ platform were equity in affordable housing, an increased minimum wage, and an end to the GOP’s voter suppression efforts. She spent 12 years as a policy aide for two members of the Minneapolis City Council prior to running, according to a press release from her campaign.

Jenkins noted that transgender people “have been here forever, and black transgender people have been here forever,” in a post-victory interview with the Washington Post. “I’m really proud to have achieved that status, and I look forward to more trans people joining me in elected office, and all other kinds of leadership roles in our society.”

Jenkins was one of several trans people who won elections on Tuesday night, according to the Victory Fund. Along with Jenkins and Roem, Lisa Middleton won a seat on the City Council in Palm Springs, California, and Tyler Titus won a spot on the Erie School Board in Pennsylvania. Phillipe Cunningham was elected to represent Ward 4 on the Minneapolis City Council, where he will serve alongside Jenkins.

Ravinder Bhalla, Hoboken Mayoral Race

Democrat Ravinder Bhalla won the race for mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, making him one of the first Sikh mayors in the United States. He is the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey, according to the Jersey Journal.

Bhalla was targeted with anonymous fliers that read “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town,” featuring a photo of the candidate, as the Washington Post reported. Responding on his campaign’s Facebook page, Bhalla said the flyer was “troubling, but I want to be clear: We won’t let hate win in Hoboken.”

“I want people to know that Hoboken is a welcoming community where my wife and I are proud to raise our two young children,” he said. “No matter your religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, you are welcome here in our City. And as Mayor, I will work hard to make sure we keep it that way.”

“I want to use this incident as an opportunity to affirm to each other and our children the value of living in a diverse community where we are judged by the content of our character – not by the color of our skin or how we worship,” Bhalla continued.

Bhalla has served two terms as an at-large member of the Hoboken City Council, according to his campaign site. His platform champions affordable housing and early childhood education.