U.S. midterm elections highlighted by historic firsts
Several female, minority candidates earn seats as Democrats set to take House
Tuesday's midterm elections in the United States were highlighted by a series of firsts, including a historic number of women chosen to serve in the House of Representatives.
As of early Wednesday morning, voters were on track to send at least 99 women to the House, surpassing the previous record of 84.
The Democrats are poised to wrest control of the House from the Republicans, but the latter appear set to maintain their hold on the Senate.
More than 230 women, many of them first-time candidates, were on the general-election ballots in House races. Despite the gains, men will continue to hold the vast majority of House seats.
Here's a look at some of the major takeaways from the midterms:
1st Muslim women elected to Congress
Voters in Minnesota and Michigan on Tuesday elected the first two Muslim women to serve in the U.S. Congress: Ilhan Omar, a former refugee who fled Somalia's civil war, and Rashida Tlaib, a Detroit-born Palestinian-American.
In Minnesota, Omar, a 36-year-old naturalized American citizen and state representative, campaigned on policies embraced by the Democratic Party's most liberal wing: universal health care, free college tuition and robust public housing. Omar will also be the first Congress member to wear a hijab, or head scarf.
Tlaib, 42, became the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan Legislature in 2008. The former state representative also ran on a liberal platform, backing Medicare for all, immigration reform and a call to overturn President Donald Trump's executive order banning most people from five Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S.
1st Indigenous women in Congress
Democratic newcomer Sharice Davids defeated incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas to become the United States' first LGBT Indigenous person in Congress.
The 38-year-old activist, lawyer and political newcomer emerged from a six-person Democratic primary and energized voters and Democratic donors by emphasizing her biography.
Her history includes mixed martial arts fights. She's a member of the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation and was raised by a single mother who served in the army and worked for the U.S. Postal Service.
Joining Davids as one of the first Indigenous women elected to Congress was fellow Democrat Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe who will represent New Mexico's first district.
Gillum loses in Florida, Georgia undecided
Democrat Andrew Gillum lost his bid to become Florida's first black governor, suffering a razor-thin defeat to Republican Ron DeSantis in a contest that drew national attention and allegations of race-baiting.
"I want to encourage you not to give up," Gillum, the 39-year-old mayor of Tallahassee, told supporters in conceding the race. "I still plan to be on the front lines alongside every one of you when it comes to standing up and fighting for what we believe in."
"I can guarantee you this I'm not going anywhere," Gillum said. "We're going to fight, we're going to keep fighting."
Gillum addresses his supporters after conceding.
Democrat Stacey Abrams, 44, was vying to become the nation's first black female governor against Republican Brian Kemp, the state's secretary of state.
Abrams wouldn't concede the tightly contested race, telling her supporters "you're going to have a chance to have a do-over."
Kemp has a narrow lead in the vote count, but it was still possible the race could go to a runoff. In Georgia, a race goes to an automatic runoff if neither candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote. The presence of a third-party candidate on the ballot makes that possibility more likely.
Abrams assures her supporters that 'votes remain to be counted':
Critics have drawn attention to Kemp's dual role as a candidate for governor and as supervisor of the state's elections in his capacity as secretary of state. Kemp accused Democrats on Sunday of trying to hack voter registration systems, without offering any supporting evidence. Democratic party officials, who have accused Kemp of trying to suppress the minority vote, quickly denied the charge.
A nonprofit group, Protect Democracy, said it had filed an emergency lawsuit on Tuesday asking a federal judge to block Kemp from presiding over the election results, including any recount or runoff race.
The races in Florida and Georgia were seen as a test of whether liberal candidates could prevail in Southern states, where centrist Democrats have repeatedly lost, by appealing to a coalition of young and minority voters.
Accusations of race-baiting have dogged Kemp, 55, and DeSantis, 40. They denied the charges.
1st Midwestern state legalizes pot
Michigan voters on Tuesday made their state the first in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana, passing a ballot measure that will allow people 21 or older to buy and use the drug and putting conservative neighbouring states on notice.
Three other states had marijuana-related measures on their ballots. North Dakota voters decided recreational pot wasn't for them, while voters in Missouri passed one of three unrelated measures to legalize medical marijuana. Utah voters also were considering whether to allow medical marijuana and to join the 31 other states that have already done so.
Including Michigan, 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. But the passage in Michigan gives it a foothold in Middle America and could cause tension with neighbouring Indiana and Ohio, which overwhelmingly rejected a 2015 legalization measure.
Other firsts from Tuesday
In Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn defeated former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen to keep a hotly contested Senate in Republican hands, becoming the first female senator to represent the Volunteer State.
Blackburn promises Trump's agenda will be advanced, wall built:
Rep. Jared Polis won Colorado's open gubernatorial seat to keep it under Democratic control. Polis defeated Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton on Tuesday to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, becoming Colorado's first openly gay governor.
Earlier, Democrat Ayanna Pressley completed her quest to become Massachusetts' first black woman elected to Congress. She sailed through Tuesday's election unopposed, two months after unseating 10-term Rep. Michael Capuano in a primary that was a national political stunner.
With no Republican in the race in the heavily Democratic district, her upset victory in the primary had all but assured Pressley the House seat.
With files from Reuters