Important Women Elected to the House of Representatives 2018
(Written in conjunction with Lindsey Kim)
The two chambers of the legislative body of the federal government were designed by the Founding Fathers of the United States to serve two different purposes. One such chamber, the Senate, was institutionalized on the basis of protecting the interests of the elites and to be non-reflective of the constantly shifting political landscape of the nation. Conversely, the House of Representatives was designed to represent and mirror not only the dynamic political interests of American citizens, but to descriptively represent the ethnic and gender makeup of the nation. While almost 40% of the nation is composed of a non-white background in addition to half the population consisting of females, the House of Representatives has lacked to adequately represent this landscape. However, the 2018 midterm elections was a pivotal moment in American history as voters historically changed the makeup of the U.S. bicameral legislature.
Who are the important first-time congress member-elects that are changing the identity of the House of Representatives?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Congresswoman-elect of New York’s 14th Congressional District and will replace the incumbent Joe Crowley (also Democratic Caucus Chairman) in the House of Representatives. This was one of the biggest upset victories of the 2018 congressional election, and she now holds the title for youngest United States congresswoman elected, at twenty-eight years of age, beating Elise Marie Stefanik (elected at thirty). Ocasio-Cortez is also a Latina woman, signaling progress of more minority representation in Congress. She runs her platform under Democratic-Socialist party principles, promoting universal healthcare, tighter gun restrictions, and housing affordability. She became well-known for her age as well as her outspoken left-wing advocacy. Ocasio-Cortez formerly worked as a campaign organizer for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run, worked for late Senator Ted Kennedy, and had a job as an educator at the National Hispanic Institute.
Abby Finkenauer is Congresswoman-elect of Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, replacing current Representative Rod Blum and beating Troy Hageman. She’s known for being one of two women elected to the Iowa state Representatives - the 2018 election being the first Iowa election where women were elected to represent the states. Finkenauer runs her platform on Democrat values, and is known for (also) being one of the youngest women elected to Congress at the age of twenty-nine. Finkenauer’s political focus is on blue-collar workers, and advocates for creating jobs, affordable college, and a strengthened economy. Before her election, she worked for Representative Jim Nussle, was the Iowa volunteer for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and aided multiple Iowa House Representatives. She was first elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 2014 and served again, elected unopposed in 2016.
Rashida Tlaib is Congresswoman-elect of Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, soon to replace incumbent Brenda B. Jones. She ran unopposed with the endorsement of the Democratic party, and is supported by the Democratic Socialists of America, based on a progressive platform. She’s noted for sharing the title of first Muslim woman elected to Congress with Ilhan Omar, also elected in the 2018 election; additionally, Tlaib has Palestinian ancestry. She served in Michigan’s House of Representatives, elected three times in 2008, 210, and 2012. At one point in her Michigan Representative career, she was one of ten Muslims serving in state representation across the country. She advocates for universal healthcare, stricter environmental regulations, better school funding along with occupation training, reform for the LGBTQ, immigration reform, equal pay, and a $15 minimum wage.
Ilhan Omar is Congresswoman-elect of Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, endorsed by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and replacing Representative Keith Ellison. She is known for being the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, sharing the title with Congresswoman Tlaib. She also has the distinction of being the first Somali-American to be elected to United States Congress, arriving as a refugee to the US at the age of twelve. One of her most prominent legislative pushes is to remove the ban on head coverings in the House of Representatives - because she is the first Hijabi elected to Congress, and the ban would require her not to wear her hijab. Her platform includes reducing student debt, banning private prisons, making it easier for refugees to enter the US, and reducing the US defense budget. She additionally supports every eighteen-year-old automatically registering to vote, and the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act. In 2006, Omar made history by becoming the first Somali-American legislator when elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Sharice Davids is Congresswoman-elect of Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District and will replace incumbent Kevin Yoder. She will be the first Native American woman elected to Congress (sharing that title with Deb Haaland), and the second openly lesbian woman (sharing that title with Angie Craig). She is a member of the Ho-Chunk nation and also a former professional MMA fighter. Some of David’s causes are the expansion of Medicaid, the immediate addressing of climate change, and economic positions such as tax cuts for the middle class. She previously served as a White House Fellow from 2016 to 2017, worked as a lawyer, and lived and served on Native American reservations.
Deb Haaland is Congresswoman-elect of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, replacing Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham. She shares the distinction of first Native American woman elected to Congress with Representative Sharice Davids, Haaland being a member of the Pueblo of Laguna. Her agenda includes fixing income inequality, addressing climate change and promoting clean, renewable energy, expanding Medicare, and advocating for working families. She previously worked for the John Kerry presidential campaign in 2004, and a volunteer for Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008. Later, she became the chair for New Mexico’s Democratic party.
Ayanna Pressley is Congresswoman-elect of Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District and will replace incumbent Mike Capuano. Pressley won the primaries by a margin of 59% to 41%, and was unopposed by any Republican challenger for the general election. She made history by becoming the first black women to represent Massachusetts in Congress. She campaigned under the slogan “change can’t wait” and was outspoken for her opposition to Donald Trump. Pressley’s congressional agenda includes aspiring to impeach President Trump, pushing forward Medicare-for-All legislation, terminating ICE, and combating sexual violence. Formerly, Pressley was a City Councilor-at-large for the city of Boston since 2009 and won re-election five times since.
Veronica Escobar is congresswoman-elect of Texas’ 16th Congressional District, succeeding former Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Escobar will become the first Latina congresswoman to represent Texas. Majority of Escobar's platform for the election was opposition to President Trump and trying to secure the rights for separated families at the El Paso border and the rights of undocumented immigrants. In addition, she seeks to fight for healthcare for all, bring back social programs for middle-class workers, and install environmental regulatory measures. Formerly, Veronica Escobar was elected to the El Paso County commissioner’s office in 2006 and was elected as El Paso county judge in 2010.
Angie Craig is Congresswoman-elect of Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, defeating incumbent Rep. Jason Lewis (R). Craig will become the first lesbian mother to become a congresswoman. Craig campaigned on the grounds of advocating accessible healthcare, higher household income for rising prices of goods, and affordable college, immigration control, veteran care, action against climate change, and stronger national security. She has spent 20 years in the healthcare industry and believes she is capable and knowledgeable enough to bring about impactful legislation to the table in order to ensure everyone can afford healthcare.