The historic firsts of the 2022 US midterm elections

Washington, DC – As diverse communities expand political participation in the United States, election cycles are increasingly seeing many historic firsts along ethnic, gender and generational lines in public office.

The trend continued in the 2022 midterm elections, which is set to produce one of the most diverse political classes in US congressional history.

Several states elected their first women to the US House, Senate and governors’ mansions. The first Generation Z politician was elected to Congress. Republicans nominated a record number of non-White candidates. There were also many notable results at the state and local levels.

Al Jazeera examines some of the candidates who broke glass ceilings in Tuesday’s midterm:

Maxwell Frost – First Gen Z congressman-elect

The US Congress will get its first Generation Z member after Maxwell Frost – born in 1997 – won an election to replace Representative Val Demings, who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate.

Frost, who is set to become one of the youngest-ever members of Congress, won the general elections comfortably in an Orlando-based district. An activist against gun violence who supports progressive initiatives, such as the Green New Deal, he was backed by many leaders of the US left, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But the 25-year-old congressman-elect faced criticism from some progressive activists in Florida who accused him of backtracking on his earlier support for Palestinian rights as he entered mainstream politics.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden paid a nod to Frost, saying that he called to congratulate him. “I have no doubt he’s off to an incredible start in what I’m sure will be a long, distinguished career,” Biden said of Frost.

Becca Balint – First woman, LGBTQ person elected to Congress in Vermont

Vermont elected its first woman and openly LGBTQ person to Congress as Democrat Becca Balint won the northeastern state’s at-large House seat.

Vermont was the last US state that had not sent a woman to Congress. So come January, with Balint’s inauguration all 50 US states will have been represented by women in Washington.

The congresswoman-elect is a progressive who supports Medicare for all and other left-wing policies. Fellow Vermonter, Senator Sanders, supported her election bid.

Balint easily defeated Liam Madden, an anti-war activist who won the Republican nomination for the seat. She will replace Congressman Peter Welch. He was elected to fill the seat of retiring Senator Patrick Leahy.

Becca Balint made history as Vermont’s first elected female member of Congress [Becca Balint/Handout via Reuters]

Summer Lee – First Black woman elected to Congress in Pennsylvania

Summer Lee will become the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress after winning a House seat in the Pittsburgh area.

Lee faced millions of dollars in election ads funded by a pro-Israel lobby group against her – first in the Democratic primary when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) backed her opponent, then in the generals when the organisation supported the Republican in the race.

Lee is a left-wing state lawmaker who has been described as the latest incoming member of the group of progressive congresswomen known as “the Squad”.

Summer Lee, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives.
Summer Lee prevailed against an onslaught of AIPAC election spending [Quinn Gablicki/Reuters]

Maura Healey – First female governor in Massachusetts

Maura Healey became the first woman elected governor in Massachusetts and the first openly lesbian governor in the nation’s history.

Healey, who currently serves as attorney general in the state, won by a large margin against Republican Geoff Diehl.

She campaigned on making combating climate change a top priority, protecting reproductive rights and advancing criminal justice reform.

Wes Moore – First Black governor of Maryland

Wes Moore, an author and army veteran, was elected as the first Black governor of Maryland, defeating far-right Republican Dan Cox by a landslide.

Moore will succeed moderate Republican Governor Larry Hogan in the state that is home to suburbs of Washington, DC and the city of Baltimore.

The incoming governor had never held public office before. He campaigned on raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, improving mass transit and making healthcare and early education more affordable.

Wes Moore
Wes Moore defeated an election denier backed by former President Donald Trump [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

Katie Britt – first female Senator from Alabama

Katie Britt, a Republican, became the first woman to win a US Senate seat in Alabama, handily defeating Democratic opponent Will Boyd.

Britt, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, will replace outgoing Senator Richard Shelby.

The senator-elect campaigned on an “Alabama First” slogan, echoing Trump’s “America first” motto. She opposes abortions and says “life begins at conception”. She is also an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, saying that the people of Alabama have a “God-given right to bear arms”.

On her campaign website, Britt pledges to “unflinchingly” support Israel, saying that “an attack on them [Israel] is an attack on America”.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders – First female governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served as press secretary in Trump’s White House, was elected as the first woman governor of Arkansas, easily defeating Democrat Chris Jones.

Huckabee Sanders is the daughter of former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

She regularly clashed with reporters during her tenure at the White House as she pushed to defend Trump’s policies and statements that his critics characterised as racist.

Other notable firsts:

  • In the northeastern state of Connecticut, Democrat Stephanie Thomas will become the Black woman to serve secretary of state.
  • Democrat Andrea Campbell was elected to serve as Massachusetts’s first Black female attorney general.
  • Shri Thanedar was elected to become Michigan’s first Indian-American Congress member.
  • In Iowa, Sami Scheetz was elected as the first Arab American to serve in the Midwestern state’s legislature.
  • Zaynab Mohamed, who is of Somali descent, was elected as the youngest woman to serve in the Minnesota Senate. The 25-year-old also became one of the first three Black women elected to the chamber.
  • Ruwa Romman, who is Palestinian American, was elected as the first Muslim woman in the Georgia State House of Representatives.
  • Nabilah Islam became the first Muslim woman elected to the State Senate in Georgia.

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