Two Muslim women make history by making it to US Congress, Latest World News - The New Paper

Two Muslim women make history by making it to US Congress

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Democrats win control of House while Republicans keep Senate

WASHINGTON Millions of Americans voted in the congressional and state contests on Tuesday, with all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, 35 seats in the 100-member US Senate and 36 of the 50 state governorship at stake.

Although not all votes have been officially declared, it is clear that the Democrats have taken back the House while the Senate will be controlled by the Republicans.

Among the winners were several firsts.

Here are some of them.


For the first time, the US Congress will have Muslim women - and two of them.

Ms Ilhan Omar, 36, a Somali refugee, won a House seat in a heavily Democratic district in Minneapolis, where she will succeed Mr Keith Ellison, himself the first Muslim in Congress.

Ms Rashida Tlaib, 42, a social worker born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, won a House seat in a district where she ran unopposed.

Ms Omar, who will be America's first hijab-wearing congresswoman, said in an interview: "I am Muslim and black. I decided to run because I was one of many people I knew who really wanted to demonstrate what representative democracies are supposed to be."

Ms Tlaib has vehemently opposed President Donald Trump - even heckling the then-candidate during a 2016 campaign appearance in Detroit.

On Tuesday, she tweeted: "Today, women across the country are on the ballot. Yes, we marched outside the Capitol, but now we get to march into the Capitol.

"We are coming!"


Democratic rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history as the youngest woman elected to Congress, riding a wave of minority women taking office and cementing her place as a prominent voice on the left of US politics.

"We have made history tonight," the grinning 29-year-old told cheering supporters at her victory party in Queens, an astonishing victory for a woman working in a Manhattan restaurant only a year ago.

She has championed her working-class and Puerto Rican roots as the daughter of a cleaner and a father who died in his 40s, embodying a different generation of politician and shunning corporate donors.

Her telegenic looks and youthful idealism has made her both a media darling and a lightning rod for criticism.

"If we are going to turn this ship around as a country, it is not good enough to throw a rock at our neighbour's yard, we've got to clean up our own house," she said on Tuesday.

"There is nothing inherently noble about protecting a status quo that does not serve the needs of working-class Americans."

She spoke of the galvanising power that her campaign had on other insurgent races and vowed that hers would be the generation to flip the Republican state of Texas blue.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez traded heavily on her non-privileged background in her quest to defeat a 10-term, Democratic Party grandee in her first political race in a New York primary on June 26.

Overnight, she went from unknown to the toast of coastal America, profiled in Vogue, a guest on chat shows and jetting around the country lending her rock-star status to other insurgent candidates.


Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids became the first Native American woman elected to Congress, defeating Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder.

Ms Davids, 38, is an attorney by training and a former mixed martial arts fighter.

She is also openly lesbian in a traditionally conservative state.

Ms Davids - who was raised by a single mother army veteran - won a district that includes Kansas City and its southern suburbs. She wore a T-shirt in her campaign advertisements that read, "Strong, Resilient, Indigenous".

But she is not the only gay person to make the record books.

Democratic Congressman Jared Polis has won the governor's race in Colorado, US networks said on Tuesday, making him the first openly gay person to be elected governor in the US.

The five-term congressman, 43, who defeated Republican Walker Stapleton, was open about his sexual orientation during the campaign, often referring to it in his criticism of Mr Trump.

Ms Kate Brown, 58, became the first bisexual governor when she was elected in Oregon in 2015, while another governor, Mr Jim McGreevey of New Jersey, came out as gay before resigning in 2004.

But Mr Polis is the first openly gay candidate to be elected governor. He will succeed Democrat John Hickenlooper, who has been in office since 2011.

A self-made millionaire and tech entrepreneur, Mr Polis was admitted to Princeton at 16 and has said that he set his sights on becoming governor when he was in college. - AFP