WASHINGTON (AP) – The vote to determine control of the House featured significant milestones. The candidates included 237 women, more than ever before. Among the winners were the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and several who broke racial or other barriers. A look at some of the victorious candidates:
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (New York Democrat)
At 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez has said she is still paying off her student loans and until recently had no health insurance.
The victory made her the national face of young, discontented Democrats – often women and minorities – trying to shove their party to the left.
Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx but raised in suburban Westchester County. Her father died while she was a student at Boston University in 2008. She got her start in politics as an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders. She calls herself a “Democratic socialist” and supports a national $15 minimum wage and universal health care coverage.
She takes the record for the youngest woman elected to Congress from Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican representing upstate New York who was elected at age 30. American voters have elected many men in their 20s to Congress.
ABBY FINKENAUER (Iowa Democrat)
Finkenauer knocked off two-term Republican incumbent Rep. Rod Blum in a fiercely contested race.
She grew up in the northeastern Iowa district she will now represent and has served four years in the Iowa House representing Dubuque.
Finkenauer has worked for a nonprofit that sought to increase the minimum wage and expand family leave.
She styled herself as a folksy champion of working-class families such as her own. A favorite of labor unions, she has frequently discussed how her father is a welder and her mother is a school district employee.
Republicans, including President Donald Trump, nicknamed her “Absent Abby” for missing some votes in the Legislature and painted her as too inexperienced.
ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (Virginia Democrat)
The Democrat and political newcomer who unseated a two-term Republican congressman in a Virginia GOP stronghold spent nearly a decade as a CIA operations officer working on counterterrorism and nuclear proliferation cases.
Abigail Spanberger, 39, also worked as a federal postal inspector, handling narcotics and money-laundering cases.
The married mother of three young daughters said she became increasingly disturbed by the sharp political divide in the country, Trump’s travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries and the GOP’s unsuccessful attempt to repeal Obamacare.
The district has been held by Republicans since 1971.
During the campaign, Spanberger cast herself as a moderate and portrayed incumbent Rep. Dave Brat as inaccessible and out of touch with his constituents. She also successfully tapped into anger over Trump among suburban voters.
PETE STAUBER (Minnesota Republican)
Pete Stauber calls himself a “blue-collar conservative.” He traded on his law enforcement and hockey background, and his support for President Donald Trump, to win the 8th District race in what used to be reliably Democratic northeastern Minnesota. The district is now swing territory – Trump won it by 15 percentage points. Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan’s decision to retire gave the GOP what was seen as its best chance anywhere to flip a blue seat.
Stauber, 52, served 22 years on the Duluth police force, retiring last year. He has been a St. Louis County commissioner from Hermantown since 2013. In a district where organized labor is still a force, it didn’t hurt that he’s the former president of the Duluth officers’ union.
And in a hockey-crazy state, it had to help that he comes from a noted hockey family. Stauber captained Lake Superior State to the NCAA Division I championship in 1988, then played minor-league hockey in the Detroit Red Wings organization. One brother, former NHL player Robb Stauber, coached the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s team in the 2018 Olympics. Pete Stauber and his brothers own a hockey store in Duluth.
ANTONIO DELGADO (New York Democrat)
Antonio Delgado went from Rhodes Scholar to rap artist to corporate lawyer before launching a career in politics.
Inspired by a surge of liberal Democratic activism following President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Delgado moved last year from the New York City suburbs to Rhinebeck in New York’s Hudson Valley, home region of his wife, and began a run against Republican Rep. John Faso.
Delgado, 41, emerged from working-class roots in Schenectady, New York, to study at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earn a law degree from Harvard University. He then pivoted to a brief hip-hop career in Los Angeles, where he rapped under the name “AD the Voice” about income inequality, war and criminal justice reform.
Though Delgado went on to become a litigator for an international law firm representing Fortune 500 companies, Republicans seized on his brief rap career to portray Delgado, who is black, as unfit for office. They claimed his lyrics denigrated police, women and American values. Delgado’s supporters called it race-baiting.
AYANNA PRESSLEY (Massachusetts Democrat)
Ayanna Pressley is the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts. The 44-year-old Democrat sailed through Tuesday’s general election unopposed, two months after a surprise unseating of 10-term Rep. Michael Capuano in the state primary, an upset victory that drew comparisons to that of Ocasio-Cortez.
Her Boston-area district, once represented by John F. Kennedy, is now the first in Massachusetts where minorities make up a majority of the voting population.
In 2009, Pressley was the first African-American elected to the Boston City Council. Before that, she worked as an aide to Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry.
Ideologically, Pressley was like the candidate she defeated in the primary: liberal, a self-described progressive. But the white, middle-aged incumbent didn’t look like many voters in his district, even though Pressley herself had bristled at the notion that race was a defining issue in the contest.
But Pressley also made clear the importance of diversity in the nation’s halls of power.
“I do think that our democracy is strengthened by an engagement of new and different voices,” she told college newspaper editors in Boston in October.
ILHAN OMAR (Minnesota Democrat)
The nation’s first Somali-American state legislator has carved her place in history again as the first Somali elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women.
Omar, a Democrat who served a single term in the Minnesota Legislature, easily won Tuesday’s election for the Minneapolis-area congressional district being vacated by Rep. Keith Ellison.
Omar was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country. She immigrated to the United States at age 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis, home to the world’s largest Somali population outside of East Africa.
Her political rise began in 2016, when she unseated a 44-year incumbent in a Democratic primary en route to winning her legislative seat later that year.
Omar’s win was a near lock because Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District is heavily liberal. But her campaign was still dogged by some questions, including allegations that she used state House campaign funding for personal expenses such as a divorce attorney and international travel. She denied the allegations and said the Republican state lawmaker behind them was “using taxpayer dollars to harass a Muslim candidate.”
RASHIDA TLAIB (Michigan Democrat)
When Rashida Tlaib won the Democratic primary to run for the Detroit-area congressional seat long held by Rep. John Conyers, her relatives in the West Bank greeted the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she’d be able to take on a U.S. administration widely seen as hostile to Muslims and the Palestinian cause.
Tlaib, 42, was elected Tuesday to Michigan’s 13th House District seat. Her win was all but guaranteed because the Republicans did not even field a candidate. Tlaib and Somali-American Ilhan Omar of Minnesota will be first two female Muslim members of Congress.
Tlaib, the eldest of 14 children, is an attorney aligned with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and has said that if elected to the House, she’d push for higher wages and better worker protections.
As the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature, Tlaib sought to defend Detroit’s poor, taking on refineries and a billionaire trucking magnate she accused of polluting city neighborhoods.
Tlaib fills a seat representing parts of Detroit and its suburbs that was long held by Conyers, who resigned last year amid complaints that he had sexually harassed former female staffers.
DONNA SHALALA (Florida Democrat)
After serving in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet and running major universities, Donna Shalala is starting a third career with her election to the House.
The 77-year-old Democrat won Tuesday in a Miami district that had long been in Republican hands. Shalala has sought to turn her age into a positive by stressing her experience with this slogan: “Ready on Day One.”
Shalala served as Clinton’s secretary of Health and Human Services for his entire presidency and has made health care a centerpiece of her agenda. She was president of the University of Wisconsin before that, and after Cabinet service she ran the University of Miami until 2015.
After that, Shalala was president of the Clinton Foundation until 2017. She counts the Clintons as close friends; Hillary Clinton campaigned for her this year in Miami.
Asked in a recent interview why she chose to take this fresh path after such a long career, Shalala said: “What I decided in my mind was that I wasn’t finished with public service. I wanted to take a shot.”
Shalala is originally from Cleveland, is of Lebanese descent and has a twin sister. She has lived in the Miami area since 2001.
DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (Florida Democrat)
Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell emigrated from Ecuador at age 14, lived for a time in a one-room Miami apartment with her family and is now headed to the U.S. House after defeating a Republican incumbent.
Mucarsel-Powell ousted GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Tuesday’s election in her first try for federal office, representing a district that stretches from south of Miami to Key West. She ran unsuccessfully for the Florida Senate in 2016.
Her first job as a teenager was at a doughnut shop, but she worked to get a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree from Claremont University in international political economy.
Mucarsel-Powell has spent most of her adult career working for nonprofit organizations in Miami such as the Coral Restoration Foundation and the Zoo Miami Foundation. She was an associate dean at Florida International University college of medicine.
Among her top issues are expanding access to health care, addressing climate change, curbing gun violence, making college affordable and providing workers with a living wage. She has also pledged to hold the Trump administration accountable.”
Associated Press writers Karen Matthews in New York City; Ryan Foley in Iowa City, Iowa; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Va.; Mary Esch in Kingston, N.Y.; William J. Kole in Boston; Kyle Potter in St. Paul, Minn..; Corey Williams in Detroit; Curt Anderson in Miami; and Russell Contreras in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.
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