POLITICS
06/27/2018 08:42 pm ET

These Candidates Could Make History In November

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may become the youngest woman ever in Congress and Stacey Abrams the first black female governor.

Partway through the primaries for the 2018 midterm elections ― with some surprising victories so far ― several candidates are set to make history if they win in November.

Some have already broken barriers with their primary wins alone ― such as Lupe Valdez, who won the Democratic nod for governor in Texas last month, becoming the first Latina and first openly gay person nominated by a major party for that position in that state.

Others are set to make the history books if they defeat their opponents in November ― such as Deb Haaland in New Mexico, who is heavily favored to become the nation’s first Native American congresswoman, and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, who is in a tough race to potentially become the nation’s first black female governor.

In many cases, victory for these candidates would mark long-awaited firsts in political representation for women and people of color, shaking up the ranks of the nation’s overwhelmingly white male governors and members of Congress.

Here are some of the potentially barrier-breaking candidates up for election:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez canvasses in a Bronx, New York, neighborhood.
Jennifer Mason
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez canvasses in a Bronx, New York, neighborhood.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

On Tuesday, progressive newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won an unexpected victory against powerful incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District. 

If Ocasio-Cortez, now 28, were to win in November ― as she is predicted to do in that very liberal district ― she would be the youngest woman elected to Congress.

“Our district is overwhelmingly people of color, it’s working class, it’s very immigrant ― and it hasn’t had the representation we’ve needed,” the Latina millennial told HuffPost earlier this month. The 14th District includes parts of Queens and the Bronx.

Jared Polis celebrates his primary victory at the Renaissance Boulder Flatiron Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado.
Helen H. Richardson via Getty Images
Jared Polis celebrates his primary victory at the Renaissance Boulder Flatiron Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado.

Jared Polis

Rep. Jared Polis won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Colorado on Tuesday.

If he wins again in November, Polis would be the first openly gay governor of Colorado ― and the first openly gay man elected governor in the entire country. (Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who was the nation’s first openly queer person elected governor in 2016, identifies as bisexual.)

Deb Haaland walks with some supporters in Albuquerque.
Deb Haaland Campaign
Deb Haaland walks with some supporters in Albuquerque.

Deb Haaland

Deb Haaland won the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District earlier this month. If she wins in November ― as she is expected to do ― Haaland would be the nation’s first Native American congresswoman.

The two Native American representatives currently serving in the House are both men from Oklahoma.

Haaland, a single mom based in Albuquerque, is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. She chaired New Mexico’s Democratic Party from 2015 to 2017.

“Is there anyone in Congress who went to Standing Rock to stand up for Native folks? No,” Haaland told HuffPost in February. (Actually, Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii did go.) “I can tell you one thing: If I’m in Congress, I would go.”

Stacey Abrams takes the stage in Atlanta to declare victory in the May 22 primary.
Jessica McGowan via Getty Images
Stacey Abrams takes the stage in Atlanta to declare victory in the May 22 primary.

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams captured the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia last month ― breaking barriers as the first African-American woman to win a major party primary for governor, per CNN.  

If elected, the former Georgia House minority leader would be the nation’s first black female governor. She would also be Georgia’s first woman governor.

“On our side of the aisle as Democrats, we have forgotten that we are supposed to be the party of prosperity for those who are disenfranchised and left behind,” Abrams told HuffPost last year. 

Lupe Valdez rides in a Mardi Gras parade in Dallas in February 2017.
Lupe Valdez
Lupe Valdez rides in a Mardi Gras parade in Dallas in February 2017.

Lupe Valdez

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez won the Democratic nomination for governor in Texas last month, making her the first Latina and first openly gay person nominated by a major party for that role in that state.

If she wins her tough race against Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott in November, she would become Texas’ first Hispanic governor and its first openly queer one.

She’d also be the nation’s first openly lesbian governor. (Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who first took office in 2015, identifies as bisexual.)  

For Latino Texans, Valdez’s victory would be a triumph of representation in a state where they make up nearly 40 percent of the population.

“It’s long overdue to have Latinas sit in these halls of power,” Amy Hinojosa, president of the national Latina organization MANA and a native Texan, told HuffPost in April.

Paulette Jordan speaks during the "Power to the Polls" voter registration tour launch at Sam Boyd Stadium on Jan. 21 in Las V
Ethan Miller via Getty Images
Paulette Jordan speaks during the "Power to the Polls" voter registration tour launch at Sam Boyd Stadium on Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.

Paulette Jordan

Paulette Jordan won the Democratic primary for governor in Idaho last month. If she wins her tough race in November, she’d become the nation’s first Native American governor.

The progressive two-term state legislator is running on a pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-marijuana legalization, pro-Medicaid expansion platform in a deeply red state.

“People just aren’t used to thinking that a woman of color, or a woman period, can win,” she told HuffPost in May. “Even people in the Democratic Party.”

Gina Ortiz Jones is interviewed by CQ Roll Call in October 2017. 
Congressional Quarterly via Getty Images
Gina Ortiz Jones is interviewed by CQ Roll Call in October 2017. 

Gina Ortiz Jones

Gina Ortiz Jones won the Democratic nomination for Texas’ 23rd Congressional District in May. If she emerges victorious in November, she will make history three times over, as the first open lesbian, Iraq War veteran and Filipina-American to represent Texas in the U.S. House.

The career civil servant ― who served in the Air Force in Iraq under President George W. Bush and as an intelligence officer under President Barack Obama ― quit her job in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative months after President Donald Trump’s election.

She told HuffPost in January that she ‘decided’ to run for office out of frustration with Trump, his policies and his picks for top positions in his administration.

“There’s just a point where you just ask yourself the question, ’Can I afford not to do this?’” Jones said of her decision to run, noting also the lack of diverse voices in Congress.

Then-Judge Veronica Escobar poses in her office in November 2016.
The Washington Post via Getty Images
Then-Judge Veronica Escobar poses in her office in November 2016.

Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia

Veronica Escobar won the Democratic nomination for Congress in Texas’ 16th District in March. If she wins as expected in November, she would be Texas’ first Latina congresswoman ― in a state where nearly 40 percent of the population is Hispanic.

Or maybe Escobar would be one of the first two. Democratic state Sen. Sylvia Garcia also won her primary in March for Texas’ 29th District, representing Houston. If she wins as predicted in November, she would also make history as a Texas Latina in Congress.

Escobar, a former El Paso County judge, is running to fill the seat of Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is currently running for Senate against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.  

“I love our position on the U.S.-Mexico border,” Escobar told HuffPost last year about possibly representing El Paso in Congress. “I love that we’ve always been the underdog. I just love this community so much that even without Donald Trump, I’m inspired by El Paso.”

Abby Finkenauer stands for a portrait on family property in Dubuque, Iowa, on June 4.
The Washington Post via Getty Images
Abby Finkenauer stands for a portrait on family property in Dubuque, Iowa, on June 4.

Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne

Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne each won their primaries in Iowa earlier this month ― for the 1st and 3rd congressional districts, respectively. If either wins in November, they would be the first woman (or women) that the state has ever sent to the U.S. House.

Both face Republican incumbents and have a shot at beating them.

They are part of a record-breaking wave of women, largely Democrats, running for the House post-Trump’s election.

Janet Mills speaks at the biannual Democratic state convention in Lewiston, Maine.
Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Janet Mills speaks at the biannual Democratic state convention in Lewiston, Maine.

Janet Mills

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills won the Democratic nod for governor last week, in an election using a new “ranked-choice” voting method, CBS News reported. If she wins in November, she would become Maine’s first female governor.

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