Democratic Colorado Governor-elect Jared Polis arrives onstage with running mate Dianne Primavera on November 6, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.
Rick T. Wilking—Getty Images
By Samantha Cooney
Updated: November 7, 2018 12:59 AM ET | Originally published: October 23, 2018

Women, minorities and LGBTQ individuals are still underrepresented in U.S. government. But the 2018 midterm elections made some headway toward achieving equality for those groups.

Democrat Jared Polis became the first openly gay man elected governor after winning Colorado’s gubernatorial election. Democrat Sharice Davids became the first Native American woman elected to Congress. Republican Marsha Blackburn became the first female senator from Tennessee. Republican Kristi Noem became South Dakota’s first female governor.

Other candidates who could have possibly made history fell short. Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who would have become Florida’s first black governor, lost to Republican Ron DeSantis. Republican Eddie Edwards could have become New Hampshire’s first black congressman, but lost to Democrat Chris Pappas, the state’s first openly gay member of Congress.

TIME looked at races for state governors, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. Here are the candidates in those races who made — and still could — make history.

These candidates just made history

Jahana Hayes

Jahana Hayes reacts after winning the Democratic primary for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District, defeating Mary Glassman, in Waterbury, Conn. on Aug. 14, 2018.
John Woike—Hartford Courant/AP

Became the first black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress.

Jahana Hayes, who was named the National Teacher of the Year in 2016, won Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District seat in the 2018 midterms. She defeated Republican Manny Santos, the former mayor of Meriden, Conn., in the general election. She becomes the first black woman to represent Connecticut — and all of New England — in Congress. Republican Gary Franks became the state’s first black congressman in 1991.

During her campaign, Hayes candidly discussed growing up in poverty and how she became pregnant at age 17. Her platform included making college more affordable, supporting Medicare-for-All and expanding rights for Dreamers.

Kristi Noem

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol after the House passed the the GOP's tax reform bill on November 16, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Became South Dakota’s first female governor.

Republican Rep. Kristi Noem won South Dakota’s gubernatorial election in the 2018 midterms, defeating Democrat Billie Sutton, the state senate’s majority leader. Her victory makes her South Dakota’s first female governor.

South Dakota has consistently elected Republican governors since 1978. Noem campaigned to improve the state’s economy, growing agriculture, and keeping the state free of income tax.

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., at a news conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Became the first Latina Democratic governor in the U.S.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, currently a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, won the race for New Mexico’s governor, defeating Republican Steve Pearce, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She became the first Latina Democratic governor in the U.S. Her predecessor — Republican Susana Martinez —became the first Latina governor when she was elected governor of New Mexico in 2010.

Her campaign platform included supporting “Dreamers,” gun reform and making the state a leader in renewable energy.

Chris Pappas

Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives Pappas takes the stage at his primary election rally in Manchester
Brian Snyder—Reuters

Became the first openly gay member of Congress from New Hampshire.

Chris Pappas, who currently serves on the New Hampshire Executive Council, won New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District seat in the 2018 midterm elections. He defeated Republican Eddie Edwards, who would have become the first black congressman from New Hampshire. Pappas became the first openly gay member of Congress from New Hampshire.

The seat has alternated between Democrats and Republicans since 2003. Pappas’ platform included expanding the Affordable Care Act, protecting abortion rights and supporting universal pre-k and tuition-free public universities. If he wins, he’ll become the first openly gay member of Congress from New Hampshire.

Deb Haaland

Deb Haaland poses for a portrait in a Nob Hill Neighborhood in Albuquerque, N.M., on June 4, 2018. Haaland, a tribal member of Laguna Pueblo, is aiming to become the first Native American woman in Congress.
Juan Labreche—AP//Shutterstock

Become one of the first Native American women elected to Congress.

Deb Haaland, who used to chair New Mexico’s Democratic Party, won New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in the 2018 midterm. She defeated Republican Janice Arnold-Jones, a former member of the state’s House of Representatives. Her platform included fighting for Medicare for All, expanding DACA and subsidizing early childhood care and education.

She became one of the first Native American women in Congress, a distinction she shares with Democrat Sharice Davids, who won the seat for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

Sharice Davids

Sharice Davids, a Democrat running for Congress in Kansas, talks to supporters at a July 4 event in Prairie Village. (Photo by David Weigel/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Became the first Native American women to serve in Congress and the first openly LGBT person to represent Kansas.

Democrat Sharice Davids, an attorney and a former MMA fighter, won the seat for Kansas’ 3rd District in the 2018 midterms. Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and an open lesbian, defeated Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder, becoming the first Native American woman to serve in Congress, as well as the first openly LGBT person to represent Kansas in Congress.

Her platform included fighting for tax cuts for the middle class, making college more affordable and supporting the expansion of Medicaid.

Jared Polis

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., walks down the House steps after the last vote before the August recess on Thursday, July 26, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Became the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S. (and first openly gay governor in Colorado).

Jared Polis, a member of U.S. House of Representatives, became the first openly gay man elected governor after winning the race for Colorado’s governor in the 2018 midterms. He defeated Republican Walker Stapleton, currently the state’s treasurer. Polis’ progressive platform included Medicare for All and universal kindergarten and pre-school.

Polis is also the first openly gay governor of Colorado. Since 1974, four out of five of the state’s governors have been Democrats.

Marsha Blackburn

Chairman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., conducts a House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee markup in Rayburn Building on June 13, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Became the first female senator from Tennessee.

Marsha Blackburn, currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, won a Tennessee senate seat in the 2018 midterms, replacing retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s seat. Her platform included ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), supporting President Trump’s border wall and repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

She became the state’s first female senator. She defeated Democrat Phil Bredesen, the state’s former governor. Blackburn received support from President Trump.

Ilhan Omar

In this Jan. 5, 2017, file photo, state Rep. Ilhan Omar is interviewed in her office two days after the 2017 Legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn.
Jim Mone—AP

Became the first Somali-American in Congress.

Ilhan Omar, a member of Minnesota’s House of Representatives and the first Somali-American Muslim person to ever become a legislator, won Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the 2018 midterm elections, defeating Republican Jennifer Zielinski. Her platform included increasing the minimum wage, supporting Medicare for All and reforming the criminal justice system.

She became the first Somali-American in Congress. She’ll also become the first Muslim woman, along with Rashida Tlaib, who won Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib

Ilhan Omar, a candidate for State Representative for District 60B in Minnesota, gives an acceptance speech on election night, November 8, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar, a refugee from Somalia, is the first Somali-American Muslim woman to hold public office; Rashida Tlaib shares a moment with her supporters on the campaign trail.
Omar: Stephen Maturen—AFP/Getty Images; Tlaib: Erik Paul Howard

Became the first Muslim women in Congress.

Rashida Tlaib, a former state legislator, won the seat for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District after running unopposed. Her platform included supporting Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage and immigration reform.

She will become the first Muslim woman in Congress with Omar.

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley celebrates her victory in the Congressional House Democratic primary in Boston, Mass. on Sept. 4, 2018.
Steven Senne—AP

Became the first black Congresswoman from Massachusetts.

Ayanna Pressley, who made history as the first black woman to serve on the Boston City Council, became the first black Congresswoman from Massachusetts after winning the state’s 7th District seat in the 2018 midterm elections. She had no Republican challenger in her race in the heavily Democratic district.

She won the Democratic primary against 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano on Sept. 4. Her platform included defunding Immigration and Customs Enforcement, supporting Medicare for All and fighting to end gun violence.

Lou Leon Guerrero

Became the first female governor of U.S. territory Guam.

Lou Leon Guerrero, the current president of the Bank of Guam, became the first female governor of Guam after defeating Republican Lt. Gov Ray Tenorio in the 2018 midterm election. Guerrero won 50.7 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff.

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity given to us to make a positive change for all our people,” Leon Guerrero said, according to the Pacific Daily News.

Guam has been run by Republican governors since 2003. Guerrero’s platform included improving the Department of Revenue and Taxation and increasing trust in government, according to the Pacific Daily News.

These candidates could make history

Stacey Abrams

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 22: Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams takes the stage to declare victory.
Jessica McGowan—Getty Images

Could become the first black female governor in the country.

Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, won the Democratic nomination for Georgia’s governor on May 22. Her platform includes creating affordable housing, fighting for gun reform and expanding Medicaid in Georgia.

She’ll face Republican Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, in November. Georgia hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1998. If she wins, she’ll become the first black female governor in the country. She’s already the first black female gubernatorial nominee of a major party in history.

Martha McSally or Kyrsten Sinema

Rep. Martha McSally speaks during her primary election night gathering on Aug. 28, 2018 in Tempe, Az.; Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, walks down the House steps after the last vote of the week on Sept. 7, 2018.
McSally: Justin Sullivan—Getty Images; Sinema: Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call

Could become the first female senator from Arizona.

Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won their primaries on Aug. 28 to compete for retiring Republican Jeff Flake’s senate seat in November. McSally, a former fighter pilot-turned congresswoman, campaigned on cracking down on immigration and supporting President Trump’s policies. Sinema, a member of the U.S. House who could also become the first openly bisexual senator, is a more moderate Democrat who opposes Medicare for All and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Arizona last elected a Democratic senator in 1994, but polling has indicated the rase is a toss-up. Either way, Arizona will get its first female senator.


Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com.

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