'The year of every woman': Record number of women elected to House in U.S. midterms
Voters on track to send at least 99 women to House, surpassing previous record of 84
A record number of women were elected to the House on Tuesday, nearly two years after women spilled out into the streets of Washington and in cities across the country in defiance of the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The incoming class of lawmakers could have a stark impact on politics in the nation's capital, particularly within the Democratic Party, after a midterm election that was widely seen as a referendum on Trump's first term.
As of early Wednesday, voters were on track to send at least 99 women to the House, surpassing the previous record of 84. According to data compiled by The Associated Press, 237 women ran for the House as major-party candidates this year.
Among the new lawmakers headed to the House is Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia state senator who defeated incumbent Barbara Comstock in one of the most closely watched races across the country.
And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former Bernie Sanders organizer who won an upset primary victory over a senior House Democrat, will also head to Congress.
At 29, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She shocked many, including herself, last spring when she came out of nowhere to defeat 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley in New York's Democratic congressional primary.
Groundbreaking year acknowledged
"I am so honoured to share both the ballot and the stage with the many visionary, bold women who have raised their hand to run for public office," said Ayanna Pressley, who became the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts.
"Now, listen, I know for a fact none of us ran to make history, we ran to make change. However, the historical significance of this evening is not lost on me. The significance of history is not lost on me, including my personal one."
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.
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.
1st Muslim women elected to Congress
Voters in Minnesota and Michigan 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 Donald Trump's executive order banning most people from five Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S.
'The year of the woman'
"This is the year of the woman, and the fact that women were willing to put themselves on the line is important, whether they've been Republicans or Democrats," said former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, a first-time candidate who defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar in south Florida.
This year, women not only increased their numbers, but the new class of lawmakers also includes women from a wide patchwork of backgrounds, adding to a Congress that is expected to be more diverse.
"This isn't just the year of the woman, this is the year of every woman," said Cecile Richards, who served as the president of Planned Parenthood for more than a decade, noting the groundbreaking diversity among the women who have run for office this year.
Texas sends 1st Hispanic women to Congress
Texas is set to send its first Hispanic women to Congress, as Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia both won their races.
Women in Senate
Tennessee gained the state's first woman in the Senate as Marsha Blackburn defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
"Now you don't have to worry if you're going to call me congressman or congresswoman or congress lady," Blackburn said in her victory speech. "Now, senator will do."
Also in the Senate, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin held off a challenge from Republican Leah Vukmir, but her fellow Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri were defeated by their Republican opponents.
The gains among women on Capitol Hill come as potential Democratic candidates for president are already taking steps to challenge Trump, several prominent female Democrats among them.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the Democrats who is considering the 2020 presidential race, said that the two years since Trump ascended to the White House had ushered a new generation of women into public life.
"Women who had never run for anything stepped up to put their names on the ballot," she said. "They ignored the party bosses who said they should wait their turn. They ignored the consultants who said they should cover up their tattoos and smile more, and they ignored the powerful men of the Republican Party who never took them seriously anyway."
"They refused to let anyone shut them up or stand in their way, and that is how real change begins," she added.
With files from The Associated Press and CBC News