A number of trailblazing candidates made history this week, as CNN projected that people of color across the country were elected to top positions at both the state and city level.
Here’s a look at some of the historic firsts from Election Night 2021.
Winsome Sears, Virginia
Winsome Sears, a conservative Republican, will be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor, breaking barriers as the first female and the first woman of color in the office in the commonwealth’s 400-year legislative history. Sears defeated Democrat Del. Hala Ayala, also a woman of color.
“It’s a historic night — yes, it is — but I didn’t run to make history. I just wanted to leave it better than I found it,” Sears said before a crowd of supporters early Wednesday morning.
Sears, who was born in Jamaica, was the first Black Republican woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, representing the 90th district for one term.
Michelle Wu, Boston
City Councilor Michelle Wu will become Boston’s next mayor, making her the first woman and person of color elected to the top post in the city’s history. Wu, a 36-year-old progressive Democrat who touted policies like a Green New Deal for Boston and a fare-free transit system, will now serve as mayor in a city which has long been led by White men.
“From every corner of our city, Boston has spoken. We are ready to meet this moment. We are ready to become a Boston for everyone,” Wu said to a crowd of supporters Tuesday night.
Wu clinched the title over City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, who is also a woman of color. Previously, Wu was the first Asian American woman elected to the Boston City Council.
While Wu is the first woman of color to be elected mayor in Boston, she is not the first woman of color to hold the seat. Wu will succeed acting mayor Kim Janey, Boston’s first Black and female mayor. Janey, then-City Council President, was next in line to lead the city when Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was named President Joe Biden’s Labor secretary in January.
Ed Gainey, Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania State Rep. Ed Gainey was elected the first Black mayor of Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The Democratic politician bested Republican Tony Moreno, a retired Pittsburgh police officer, after running on a campaign to make Pittsburgh the country’s most “safe, affordable and diverse” city and touting police reform and affordable housing. He has represented Pittsburgh in the state legislature since 2013 and previously worked for Pittsburgh Mayors Luke Ravenstahl and Tom Murphy.
“This victory isn’t just my victory, it’s a Pittsburgh victory,” Gainey said on Twitter Tuesday night.
Aftab Pureval, Cincinnati
Aftab Pureval, a Democrat, was elected mayor of Cincinnati on Tuesday, becoming the first ever Asian American to hold the position. Pureval, a 39-year-old attorney, defeated city councilor David Mann, also a Democrat who previously served as mayor of Cincinnati and represented Ohio in the US House of Representatives, to clinch the city’s top post.
“Words can’t express how honored and excited I am to be the next Mayor of Cincinnati. Tonight, we made history! Let’s get to work,” Pureval said on Twitter Tuesday.
Bruce Harrell, Seattle
Bruce Harrell, a Democrat, will become Seattle’s first Asian American mayor. The moderate former city council president defeated progressive City Council President Lorena González, clinching the seat. Harrell, who is Japanese American and Black, is also Seattle’s second Black mayor.
Elaine O’Neal, Durham
Elaine O’Neal will be first Black woman mayor of Durham, North Carolina. O’Neal, a former judge and former interim dean of North Carolina Central University Law School, ran on boosting public safety, access to housing and jobs. Her opponent, City Council member Javiera Caballero, suspended her campaign after the primary but stayed on the ballot
Eric Adams, New York City
In addition to a number of historic firsts, New York City saw a historic second, as Eric Adams became the second Black mayor in the city’s history.
Adams, a Democrat, is a retired New York Police Department captain who embraced a public safety message. A Brooklyn native who currently serves as its borough president, Adams won a chaotic Democratic primary this summer on a promise to both beef up and reform the NYPD amid worries over a rise in violent crime. His message — that “public safety is the prerequisite to prosperity” — resonated with working class Democratic voters outside the traditionally liberal enclaves of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, which fueled his nomination.
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