Government Seats Gaining Diversity

Taking steps in a more progressive direction

Seeing Minnesota’s own Ilhan Omar make history by winning a House of Representatives seat and being the first Somali-American legislator was inspiring to minorities and allies alike, with the trend of diversity in government continuing after the recent elections across the country on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Finding one’s voice when the majority of those representing America are rich, white men can be immensely frustrating for a lot of people, and since the recent election included more minorities and women, there will hopefully continue to be an increase in diverse representatives in governmental positions. Here are a few of the people who won their races and defied the norm.

Danica Roem:

Illustrator: Will Hanson

She was popular before the election even occurred, running as a transgender woman. Her opponent, Bob Marshall, wrote the ‘bathroom bill’ that took away the liberty for transgender individuals to utilize the restroom for the gender they identified with. One of her main focuses for her term is to fix the congested traffic in her state as well as advocate for better teacher pay and Medicaid expansions. Roem’s win as the first openly transgender woman in a state legislature is much larger than herself; it’s a movement in a more progressive direction, and a sigh of relief for the transgender community after the many setbacks it has encountered in Virginia.

Illustrator: Will Hanson

Wilmot Collins:

In order to escape the intense civil war in Liberia, Collins fled to Ghana, undertaking the vetting process to come to the United States. He now resides in Helena, Montana, where his daughter was living as a high school exchange student and planning to attend college. Collins endured the prolonged process of gaining immigrant status to the United States to live by her. Now, with his daughter in the Navy, his son attending the University of Montana, his wife working as a nurse for the Army Reserve, and he himself having worked with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, the Navy Reserve, and as a professor, he makes it quite evident that refugees are vital for American communities. In a mayoral race against James Smith, a 16-year incumbent, Collins won amidst the strict rhetoric of President Trump’s immigration initiatives. His election spreads the larger message that refugees are good people who give back to their communities in plentiful measures.

Illustrator: Will Hanson

Elizabeth Guzman & Hala Ayala:

Illustrator: Will Hanson

These two were elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, and are the first Hispanic women to sit in these seats. The two white men they ran against were incumbents who have repeatedly won their districts or have run unopposed, yet Guzman and Ayala overcame the odds by striving to increase voter turnout, succeeding by high margins and securing their victories. Ayala’s platform is to expand Medicaid, protect contraceptives and abortion access, and raise salaries for teachers, while Guzman plans to focus on integrating more family and health services. With the passion to take over these roles, as well as the power to completely swap their districts from Republican to Democrat, these women have shown that they have the capacity to achieve their hopes for policy and mobilize their constituents.

Ravinder Bhalla:

Illustrator: Will Hanson

In the midst of the disbursement of fliers proclaiming him a terrorist, Bhalla overcame the disillusioned propaganda and the competition of five other candidates to become the first Sikh mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey. Many often confuse the Sikh faith, which is based out of India and revolves around values of equality, with either Hinduism or Islam, and place negative biases on those associated with the faith without any clear knowledge of its goals. Bhalla makes it clear that he will not stand for hate in any of its forms. He, as well as the turban he sports with immense pride, inspires a community of people who do not often feel comfortable, heard, or represented.

Illustrator: Will Hanson

Vi Lyles:

With voter turnout higher than initially predicted, Lyles took the position in Charlotte, North Carolina as their first female African-American mayor. Her opponent and incumbent, Kenny Smith, had both more funding and spending than her campaign did, yet she came out on top with her message of equality for their city being much more resounding. Her platform resonated with those wanting to fix housing issues, the job market, and citizens’ trust of their law enforcement. Lyles boasted to her supporters about how proud she was to begin her journey representing them as a woman whose father did not graduate from high school. She wants to prove that if people work hard towards their goals, they can achieve them, no matter what the odds are.