Beyond a record-breaking voter turnout nationwide, the 2020 election season resulted in many historic wins down the ballot. From the vice president-elect to local assembly members and legislation, here are some of the notable wins from the 2020 election.
Across the nation there were a record number of openly LGBTQ+ candidates on 2020 ballots, marking a ‘rainbow wave’ for this year’s elections. According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, about 1,000 LGBTQ+ candidates ran for office in 2020. There were 574 candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot and 200 have won for a variety of state and federal positions.
From the White House…
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is the first woman and first woman of color to serve as the vice president of the United States.
President-elect Joe Biden is also breaking the record as the oldest president in American history at 78 as of Nov. 20. Ronald Reagan, who was 77 when he left office, previously held the record.
There were a record-breaking nine openly LGBTQ+ members elected into the U.S. House of Representatives, seven of whom were incumbents and two of whom were newly elected.
Of the two newcomers, Richie Torres, an Afro-Latinx gay man, is the first gay elected official in Bronx and, with Mondaire Jones, one of two first gay Black men in congress.
Sharice Davids, one of the incumbents, is the first openly LGBTQ+ Native American in Congress.
As for the U.S. Senate, Ana Irma Rivera Lassén is the first openly-LGBTQ+ senator from Puerto Rico.
The GOP also will send at least 10 women to the House of Representatives — the largest number of women from the party ever.
And Every State In Between
Before 2020, there were only four out transgender state legislators. Americans voted five new transgender or gender-nonconforming candidates into state legislatures, one of whom is an incumbent but was not previously out as gender-nonconforming.
Many barrier-breaking politicians from previous years were reelected in 2020. In Colorado, Brianna Titone (CO-D) was reelected to the Colorado House of Representatives, despite anti-LGBTQ+ advertisements from her opponents. She was first elected in 2019 and was the first transgender state lawmaker. Joining Titone in Colorado, David Ortiz (CO-D) was elected into the Colorado state legislature, becoming the first openly bi lawmaker in the state. He will also be the first wheelchair user elected to the legislature.
Rep. Stephanie Byers (KS-D) is the first openly transgender and indigenous state legislator of not only Kanas, but the nation. Byers hopes that people can look beyond her identity when considering her win. Byers told local ABC affiliate KAKE.COM that, “For me, being transgender is just another aspect of who I am.”
Taylor Small (VT-D) follows Byers as the first openly transgender to be lected to the Vermont Legislature.
Tiara Mack (RI-D) is the first queer person of color to be elected to the Rhode Island Legislature. She beat long-time incumbent Rep. Harold Metts (RI-D) by nearly 59%. Roger Montoya (NM-D) and Brittney Barreras (NM-D) are the first two openly LGBTQ+ members elected to the New Mexico State House.
Christy Holstege (CA-D) is the first openly bisexual mayor in the country and the first woman to be the mayor of Palm Springs. Her journey to the position was not easy. Holstege’s opponents and their supporters shared biphobic and sexist comments online and in various public forums, illegitimizing her sexuality because of her marriage and pregnancy.
Adrian Tam (HI-D) defeated the leader of the Hawaii Proud Boys chapter and became the only openly LGBTQ+ state legislature in Hawaii.
Charmaine McGuffey (OH-D) is the first woman to be elected sheriff in Hamilton County, Ohio. McGuffey said she was previously fired in 2017 from the sheriff’s office by Jim Neil for being openly lesbian, so she decided to run against him for sheriff and won.
Jabari Brisport (NY-D) is the first Black gay New York State Senator. The public school teacher and activist won against his Democratic opponent, New York Assembly member Tremaine Wright. At the age of 24, Khaleel Anderson (NY-D) also made history in New York as the youngest Black elected official in New York State as he took a seat in the state legislature.
Republican Madison Cawthorn (NC-R) also became the youngest member of congress at the age of 25 after being elected into the House as a North Carolina representative. Cawthorn is one of the more controversial winners with multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and social media posts sharing his visit to Adolf Hitler’s vacation home, saying it was “on my bucket list for awhile.”
In Georgia, Kim Jackson (GA-D) became the first LGBTQ+ state senator. She is also one of the three openly LGBTQ Black women state senators in the country, the other two being Marie Pinkney (DE-D) of Delaware and Tiara Mack (RI-D) of Rhode Island. Sam Park (GA-D) also held another victory for the state as the first openly-gay man in Georgia state legislature. He was first elected in 2016 and was reelected in 2020.
There were two historic LGBTQ+ wins in Florida this year. Shervin Jones (FL-D) was elected into senate, becoming the first openly gay Florida senator. He is one of the few out Black men elected a state senator. Additionally, Michele Rayner (FL-D) is the first queer Black woman to win a seat in the Florida legislature.
Sarah McBride (DE-D) is the nation’s first transgender state senator, winning the election in Delaware. McBride won about 73% of the votes, defeating her Republican opponent, Steven Washington. She is also the first out LGBTQ+ person to hold a seat in the Delaware state legislature.
Mauree Turner (OK-D) became the first nonbinary state legislature in the nation, as well as the first Muslim lawmaker in Oklahoma.
Black Live Matter activist Cori Bush (MO-D) is the first Black woman to represent Missouri in the U.S. House of Representatives. She won almost 80% of votes and defeated Republican candidate Anthony Rogers. Bush turned to politics after spending years in community organizing and leading protests in response to the shooting of innocent Black people at the hands of the police, taking action after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014.
Senator Smara (NY-D) won a seat in the New York State senate, becoming the only woman of color to represent upstate New York.
Former magazine editor Nikil Saval (PA-D) is the first South Asian American elected to the Pennsylvania Senate. Saval was a co-Editor-in-Chief for n+1, a literary magazine based in Brooklyn. He mainly writes about culture, architecture and design for the magazine and with other publications like New York Times and the New Yorker. He told CBS News that after getting involved in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016, he turned to politics.
Texas had a couple of big wins for the Black community. Eric Fagan (TX-D) was elected as the first Black sheriff since reconstruction and Dedrick Johnson became Texas City’s first Black mayor.
Tarra Simmons was elected to the Washington state legislature and became the first formerly incarcerated candidate to win a seat in the state’s House of Representatives. Simmons won with almost 62% of votes, defeating Republican candidate April Ferguson.
The 2020 election was big for changes in drug legislation. Arizona and New Jersey voted to legalize recreational marajuana. South Dakota legalized both medicinal and recreational marajuana, the first state to legalize both at the same time. Montana established that residents needed to be 21-year-old to purchase marijuana recreationally and Mississippi legalized the less stringent of the two medicinal marijuana measures on their ballot. After these results, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (NY-D) suggested that New York state may be next in 2021.
Beyond marijuana, Oregon is the first state to decriminalize the possession of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. People in possession of small amounts of drugs starting Feb. 1, 2021 will now be faced with a civil violation and subject to a $100 fine.
California passed Proposition 17, which will allow felons on parole to vote and run for office. This will affect nearly 50,000 individuals in the state.
After over three years of consistent protest by the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles chapter, District Attorney Jackie Lacey has been elected out of office. Protestors were outside of the Hall of Justice every Wednesday, chanting “Jackie Lacey must go” and protesting her refusal to support criminal justice reform and prosecute Los Angeles Police Department for their wrongdoings, such as killing innocent Black people. Upon her loss, BLMLA returned to the Hall of Justice for a “#JackieLaceyWillGo Celebration.” Lacey is succeeded by George Mascon.
California also approved Proposition 22, which allows ride sharing and food apps to continue classifying workers as contract workers rather than employees, who would receive benefits. This proposition was the most expensive proposition in the state’s history, with tech companies spending $200 million to gain support for the measure. This win for these companies in California could potentially lead to similar measures in other states or federal legislation, according to the New York Times.
Although there has been so much representational progress in the 2020 election, there is still more to fight for. In a recent report by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), anti-trans hate crimes reached a high of 224 cases in 2019, a 18% increase from 2018. Social movements for Black lives are still rolling across the nation and details of Breonna Taylor’s murder continues to emerge and grow.
Despite the frequent focus on the presidential election, there are many positions down the ballot that matter as well. The week of Nov. 3 marked a lot of firsts and record-breaking wins for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ candidates and their communities.