In 2018, a record-breaking number of women ran for office – and in November, won seats up and down the ballot. In that historic midterm election, women candidates and voters alike sent a clear message: they had had enough of the Trump administration’s lies, sexism and attacks on our rights. Their collective wins had such a profound impact that by the year’s end, many had proclaimed 2018 the “Year of the Woman.”
This Women’s History Month has been punctuated by a global pandemic and a growing sense of anxiety and fear, here in the U.S. and globally. Amid these moments, thinking back to that election has both comforted and inspired me. After that historic Election Day, I felt, for the first time in a while, a sense of hope about the future of our country. Across the country, Native American women, Latina women, Black women, Muslim women, women with disabilities, millennial and generation Z women, immigrant women, lesbians, bisexual and transgender women were poised to take charge of steering this country toward the values and ideals presented in our Constitution. And after they won, they wasted no time getting to work!
So if you, like me, could use a little inspiration right now, I’ve put together an update on how some of these fearless leaders have been using the power of their offices to make change and push back against the Trump administration’s harmful agenda.
After the 2018 election, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids became the first Democrat to represent Kansas in a decade. She is the first LGBTQ Native American elected to Congress, and one of the first two Native American women to be elected.
In the 116th Congress, Davids serves as co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and vice chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. As a member of Congress, she has championed legislation that works to democratize access to high-speed internet, legislation that provides funding and government resources to create solutions for maternal mortality-– including Black and Native women, who are disproportionately affected, and legislation to support veterans in creating new small businesses.
After the 2018 election, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar became one of the first two Latinas to represent Texas in Congress. In the 116th Congress, Escobar serves on the House Judiciary Committee, as the freshman liaison to Democratic leadership, and as the vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She has taken early leadership in crafting legislation to provide protection to asylum seekers and to provide oversight of ICE.
After the August 3, 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Escobar made national headlines for her remarks condemning Trump for his racist rhetoric and policy proposals, which the shooter cited in his manifesto. Escobar stressed that “words have consequences,” and stated that Trump was not welcome in El Paso while communities were mourning.
In 2020, Escobar provided the Democrats’ response to the State of the Union address in Spanish, drawing attention to the threat that the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled legislature pose to Latino and immigrant communities in the U.S.
U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia joined Escobar as one of the first two Latinas to represent Texas in Congress. Garcia currently serves on the House Judiciary and House Finance committees, and is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
During Garcia’s time in Congress, she has championed reforms that would restrict the enforcement of immigration laws at polling places, prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from shackling pregnant women and require immigration officials to provide minimum standards of care to pregnant women, as well as reunite separated families at the U.S.-Mexico border. She also was selected to be one of seven House impeachment managers to present the case to remove President Trump from office.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland joined Rep. Davids as one of the first two Native American women to be elected to Congress. Haaland represents New Mexico in the 116th Congress, and serves as the vice chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and a co-chair of the Native American Caucus.
In Congress, Haaland has been the original sponsor on 32 pieces of legislation on a diverse range of issues, including supporting Native Americans to combatting violence against women and protecting our natural resources. In particular, she has championed bipartisan legislative solutions for justice for Native American survivors of sexual assault, to provide dignity to students with school lunch debt, and to preserve our national historic monuments.
Flipping what was once former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s Georgia seat, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath won this former conservative stronghold, becoming the first Democrat to garner more than 40 percent of the vote since 1993. McBath was motivated to run for office as the mother of a child lost to racist gun violence. In the 116th Congress, she serves on the House Judiciary and House Education and Labor committees.
During McBath’s tenure in Congress, she has advocated for common sense solutions for gun violence, especially as it impacts vulnerable communities, championing legislation to address intimate partner violence and to keep firearms out of the hands of those proven to pose a threat to their families. She also championed the HAVEN Act, which protects disability benefits for veterans in extreme financial distress, which was signed into law by the president in August 2019.
After defeating long-term incumbent Joe Crowley in what was one of the biggest upsets of the 2018 election cycle, New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became one of the faces of the evolution of the Democratic party. In 2018, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress, where she serves on the House Oversight and Reform and Financial committees.
In Congress, Ocasio-Cortez has been hard at work championing progressive legislation, like her suite of legislation, A Just Society, which provides economic solutions for low-income communities, and her cornerstone Green New Deal, which spurs action on the climate crisis.
After her victory in the 2018 election, Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American member of Congress and one of the first Muslim congresswomen elected, alongside Rashida Tlaib. In the 116th Congress, she sits on the House Budget and House Foreign Affairs committees and serves as the Whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
During Omar’s tenure in Congress, she has championed legislation to provide progressive solutions to international and domestic challenges. She has sponsored notable legislation that calls on the Department of State to protect LGBTQ people abroad who may experience discrimination and violence, reverses the Trump administration’s deportation of Eritrean immigrants, and forgives student loan debt.
In 2018, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter flipped a long-standing conservative district in Orange County, California, becoming the first Democrat to represent the district. In the 116th Congress, she sits on the House Financial Services Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Reform, where she regularly asks the crucial and probing questions to help inform her proposed solutions. Her tenacious style made news recently, when she pushed multiple officials about the lack of available coronavirus testing, prompting CDC Director Robert Redfield to commit to take steps toward free testing for the coronavirus across the country.
In Congress, Porter has championed legislation that expands access to mental health care, promotes parity in leave for child care, and that holds lenders accountable to those with student debt via the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
After her 2018 victory, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley became the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. In the 116th Congress, she sits on the House Financial Services and House Oversight and Reform committees and is a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus.
Over the last two years, Pressley has brought forth legislation that reduces the impact of the school-to-prison and school-to-deportation pipelines by providing grants to schools that pilot restorative justice practices and keep high-risk students in schools, expands access to affordable pre- and post-natal care to low-income mothers, and expands private insurance to cover contraceptives and include them in cost-sharing plans.
In 2018, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger beat an incumbent to become the first Democrat to represent Virginia’s 7th Congressional district in 50 years. Citing her experience as a law enforcement officer and officer of the CIA, Spanberger ran as a rebuke to what she saw as Republicans’ pattern of prioritizing profits over people, particularly through their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In the 116th Congress, she serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Agricultural committees.
During Spanberger’s first term, she has introduced and championed legislation that creates sustainable solutions for the next generation of challenges. Her core legislative priorities have included identifying medical challenges associated with firefighting and providing adequate care to our first responders, ensuring access to secure 5G wireless services, and legislation that requires greater transparency about prescription drug prices and potential savings for consumers.
After her 2018 victory, U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, became the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, and one of two of the first Muslim congresswomen. In the 116th Congress, she serves on the House Oversight and Reform and House Financial Services committees.
During her first term, she has advanced legislation that works to bolster the American auto industry, to prohibit credit score discrimination, and to help minimize the burden of medical procedure related debt. Further, her bill the Representative Payee Fraud Prevention Act of 2019, which protects people with disabilities, minors, and the elderly from embezzlement, was signed into law by the president in March 2020.
Our country deserves bold, progressive leaders who fight for and protect our communities. And especially during these unprecedented times, I’m especially grateful to tip my hat to these women. Indeed, PFAW and our members are grateful to celebrate their accomplishments — and history-making accomplishments of women across the world.
And with this November around the corner, I’m confident that their collective bravery and spirit has inspired more women to run for office– and win.