Election Night 2020 was a confusing and often disappointing evening as the presidential election and control of the U.S. Senate continue to be undecided.
As Blavity previously reported, many Black candidates had the potential to win seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. As the night went on, it became clear that many of these candidates, such as Jaime Harrison in South Carolina and Mike Espy in Mississippi, would fall short. Nonetheless, election night saw several Black candidates make history.
Here are 12 candidates who individually or collectively achieved success and broke barriers in the 2020 election:
Nikema Williams wins John Lewis’ seat
In a race that saw two Black women face off for legendary John Lewis’ seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Nikema Williams won decisively against Republican Angela Stanton King. Williams tweeted her excitement over being chosen to represent the people of Georgia in the U.S. Congress.
WE DID IT! Thank you for your support — I would have never been able to do it without you.
— Senator Nikema Williams (@NikemaWilliams) November 4, 2020
Raphael Warnock outperforms opponents, forces runoff
Since none of the candidates received a majority of votes in this race that saw 20 different people competing, Warnock and Loeffler will face off again in a runoff this coming January. With a few Senate seats still undecided, Warnock’s race could potentially decide which party takes control of the Senate in January.
Look for Warnock, the pastor of the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church, to gain significant attention and money in the weeks to come. Reverend Warnock has already begun soliciting support for the January rematch against Loeffler.
We're officially headed to a January runoff election against Kelly Loeffler and we need your help to win. Chip in right now to flip Georgia blue: https://t.co/avI2JPFAxV
— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) November 4, 2020
Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres, two openly gay Black men, were elected to Congress
Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres will become the first openly gay Black men to serve in the U.S. Congress.
As reported by the Independent, the two men, both running as Democrats in New York, won their respective contests last Tuesday. Torres, who is also Afro Latino and previously served as the first openly gay member of the New York City Council, defeated an anti-gay marriage opponent and several other candidates to win the seat for the 15th District and plans to join both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Jones, meanwhile, won New York’s 17th District with the support of voters who include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
You, of course.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 4, 2020
Kim Jackson and Torrey Harris break barriers for Black LGBTQ community in the south
As reported by the advocate, Kim Jackson and Torrey Harris have become the first openly LGBTQ+ individuals elected to the Georgia State House and Tennessee State House, respectively.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund reports that Jackson, an Episcopal priest, will become one of a very few number of openly LBBTQ Black women serving in state legislatures. Harris, meanwhile, won against the longtime seat holder John DeBerry. As reported by the Daily Memphian, DeBerry, who defeated Harris in the 2018 Democratic primary, was removed from the Democratic ticket earlier this year but ran as an Independent against Harris. Harris easily won this rematch.
— Torrey Harris (@TorreyHarris901) November 4, 2020
Four Somali-Americans declare victory in Minnesota
Ilhan Omar won her reelection to the U.S. House representing Minnesota, and her victory was accompanied by that of three other Minnesotans of Somali origins.
4 Somalis won seats in USA.
1. Ilhan Omar WINS her seat and returns to congress
2. Hodan Hassan WINS Minnesota State House
3. Mohamud Noor WINS Minnesota State House
4. Omar Fateh WINS Minnesota State Senate and becomes the FIRST Somali American in the Minnesota Senate.#Somalia
— Garowe Online (@GaroweOnline) November 4, 2020
Mohamud Noor won re-election to the Minnesota House of Representatives (holding on to a seat previously held by Omar before her election to the U.S. House), and is joined as a state representative by first-time winner Hodan Hassan. Finally, Omar Fateh will serve as the first Somali-American state senator for Minneapolis after the Nov. 3 win.
Mauree Turner achieves a number of firsts
Mauree Turner, a 27-year-old progressive running in a largely conservative state, won their race for a seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives for the 88th District.
With the win, Turner simultaneously became the first Black person to represent her district, the first Muslim to serve in the Oklahoma House, and the first openly non-binary person elected to any state legislature in the United States. As reported by HuffPost, they will also be the third openly queer person to hold the seat, following state representatives Al McAffrey, who was first elected in 2007, and Kay Floyd, who succeeded McAffey from 2012 until 2014. Turner advocated during their campaign for criminal justice reform, as well as increasing wages and access to healthcare in the state.
More big news: Mauree Turner's election makes her the first Muslim in Oklahoma's state legislature and one of the first non-binary legislators in American history.
This is progress. pic.twitter.com/8xc51x7SiB
— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) November 4, 2020
In commenting on the win, Turner lamented the defeat of SQ805, a criminal justice reform bill that, as Blavity previously reported, was one of several important state-wide measures voted upon this election cycle.
I have a lot of feelings about tonight. But overall, I'm grateful for HD88 granting me this opportunity. I hate SQ805 & so many other things slipped through our fingers… But I'm ready to fight hard as hell so they never do again.
Nothing About Us Without Us
Let's go get 'em 88 pic.twitter.com/Y059G30Mbw
— Mauree Turner (They/She) (@MaureeTurnerOK) November 4, 2020
Cori Bush will become the first Black congresswoman from Missouri
Cori Bush, who will represent St. Louis and Ferguson, is the first Black woman to represent the state in Congress. As Blavity previously reported, activist Cori Bush, who came to prominence in the early days of Black Lives Matter as a protest leader after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, easily won her race to represent the area as U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 1st District.
Brandon Scott to become one of Baltimore’s youngest mayors
At 36 years old, Brandon Scott has just been elected as one of the youngest-ever Baltimore mayors.
Being elected mayor is the honor of a lifetime, and I could not have done it without you. Thank you to all the volunteers & supporters. Most of all, thank you to the voters of Baltimore. Tonight, we embark on a new way forward for our city together.
Mayor-Elect BMS pic.twitter.com/FVNDty0hN7
— Brandon M. Scott (@CouncilPresBMS) November 4, 2020
Scott comes to lead Baltimore at a tumultuous time for the city. Over the past several years, Baltimore has had to deal with the fallout from the death of Freddie Gray and tensions between the community and police, racially-tinged criticism of the city from outgoing President Trump, and the loss of longtime Representative Elijah Cummings, who died last year.
The mayor’s office itself became open after the last elected mayor was forced to resign after a scandal that involved her using her position for personal gain. Scott, meanwhile, has been a city council member in Baltimore for a number of years and is renowned for his work promoting education and public safety in the community. According to the local Fox 5 affiliate, Scott said in his acceptance speech that he was coming in to “end business as usual in City Hall” and “make Baltimore [a] safer city” for all its residents.
Oballa Oballa is the first Black man elected to any office in Austin, MN
Oballa Oballa, first Black man elected in Austin, MN, has literally come a long way.
Oballa Oballa, who came to Minnesota as a refugee from Ethiopia, has become the first Black man to win an elected position in the city of Austin. The Sahan Journal reports that Oballa’s family fled ethnic violence against his community in Ethiopia 2003. After 10 years living in a refugee camp, the family eventually made its way to the United States, where Oballa became a naturalized citizen with the help of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.
At MN BOT Trustees meeting today, I shared Dr. @saragoldrickrab Quote in my testimony, "The new economics of college are creating poverty. Hunger and homelessness are holding students back. Education finance must be rethought so students aren't punished for pursuing education." pic.twitter.com/S0pAuFfEz7
— Oballa Oballa (@OballaOballa4) October 15, 2019
Oballa was one of a number of Black immigrants running for office in Minnesota this year, as noted above, and is the latest example of the immigrant community engaging in careers of public service in the state.
Though the 2020 election brought disappointment for many Black candidates and campaigns, these victories show that progress continues to be made across the country.