American voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the crucial midterm elections, and a number of candidates will make history if they prevail in their races.
In particular, the departure of 46 members from the House of Representatives has created an opening for a new class of young and diverse candidates to seek federal office.
Two House candidates, Democrat Maxwell Frost of Florida and Republican Karoline Leavitt of New Hampshire, would become the first Gen Z members of Congress if they win their elections. Leavitt would also set a record as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress if she can defeat Democrat Chris Pappas in their hotly contested race, which is considered a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.
In Vermont, Democrat Becca Balint is favored to win her House race, which would make her the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ+ politician to represent the state in Congress. If Balint wins, all 50 US states will have sent at least one woman to Congress, as Vermont became the sole outlier on that metric in 2018.
Some House races will even make history regardless of which party’s candidate prevails. In New York’s third congressional district, either Democrat Robert Zimmerman or Republican George Devolder-Santos will become the first openly gay person to represent Long Island in the House.
As Republicans look to take back the House, their playbook has relied upon nominating a diverse slate of candidates in battleground districts that will probably determine control of the lower chamber. The strategy builds upon the party’s momentum from 2020, when Republicans flipped 14 House districts where they nominated a woman or a person of color.
Overall, Republicans have nominated 67 candidates of color in House races, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Those candidates could allow the party to dramatically expand its ranks of members of color, given that only 19 non-white Republicans serve in the House now. With Republicans heavily favored to take back the House, many of those candidates of color could join the new session of Congress in January.
Latina Republicans have performed particularly well in primary races, with several of them expected to win their general elections as well. The nominations of candidates like Anna Paulina Luna in Florida’s 13th congressional district and Yesli Vega in Virginia’s seventh district, which is another tossup race, led Vox to declare 2022 to be “the year of the Latina Republican”.
“Republicans have an all-star class of candidates who represent the diversity of our country,” Tom Emmer, chair of the NRCC, said late last month. “These candidates are going to win on election day and they will deliver for the American people.”
Republicans’ strategy of nominating people of color in some key House races comes even as members of the party continue to make headlines for their racist comments on the campaign trail. For example, Republican senator Tommy Tubberville of Alabama was widely denounced last month after he suggested Democrats support reparations for the descendants of enslaved people because “they think the people that do the crime are owed that”.
And while Republicans boast about the diversity of this year’s class of candidates, Democrats’ House caucus remains much more racially diverse. Fifty-eight Black Democrats currently serve in the House, compared to two incumbent Black Republicans. Similarly, House Republicans hope to double their number of Latino members, which now stands at seven, but 33 Latino Democrats currently serve in the lower chamber.
Beyond Congress, several gubernatorial candidates are eyeing the history books. Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Maura Healey in Massachusetts and Tina Kotek in Oregon, would become the first openly lesbian women governors in US history if they are successful on Tuesday. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary under Donald Trump, will also likely be the first woman to win the Arkansas governorship.
Stacey Abrams had hoped to make her mark as the first Black woman to serve as Georgia’s governor, but incumbent Republican Brian Kemp has pulled ahead in the polls. Other candidates like Oklahoma Democrat Madison Horn, who would be the first Native American woman to serve in the US Senate, also face long-shot odds of prevailing on Tuesday.
But even if certain historic candidates do not succeed, it appears certain that the halls of Congress and governor’s mansions across America will look a bit different after 8 November.