Tucson elects first Latina mayor and other historic Election Day wins

From Kentucky's first African American Attorney General to the first Muslim woman to serve on the Virginia Senate, a handful of candidates across the country made history.
Regina Romero
Former Tucson City Council member Regina Romero was elected the city's first female and first Latina mayor.Manuel Ruiz / Regina Romero for Tucson Mayor

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By Gwen Aviles

The 2018 midterm elections further diversified the country's leadership as a record number of queer candidates, persons of color and women claimed victory, and those groundbreaking gains continued in 2019. From Kentucky's first African American attorney general to the first Muslim woman to serve on the Virginia Senate, a handful of candidates across the country made history Tuesday.

Here's a look at those landmark wins.

Regina Romero, mayor of Tucson, Arizona

Former Tucson City Council member Regina Romero was elected the city's first female and first Latina mayor. The Democratic legislator, who won almost 55 percent of the vote, beat out independent Ed Ackerly and Green Party candidate Mike Cease.

“We want to change the face of politics in Arizona, one city at a time…we have politicians with new ideas, we want to reflect the diversity of the state,” said Romero, 44, in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo.

In her campaign, Romero pledged to expand affordable housing in the city and put Tucson on the path to be carbon neutral by 2050. A Mexican American and the daughter of migrant workers, she also promised to advocate for the city's immigrant communities.

Romero will now be the only Latina mayor in the country's 50 most populous cities. While Tucson's population is about 44 percent Hispanic, it has never elected a Latina mayor. Mexican-American businessman, Estevan Ochoa, was elected mayor of the city in 1875, back when Arizona was just a territory.

Ghazala Hashmi, Virginia Senate

Ghazala Hashmi, a first-time candidate, unseated GOP incumbent Sen. Glen Sturtevant, and in doing so, became the first Muslim woman elected to the Virginia Senate. A former community college educator, Hashmi immigrated to the United States from India as a child and earned a doctorate in English from Emory University.

Virginia State Sen-elect, Ghazala Hashmi speaks to supporters at a Democratic victory party in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 5, 2019.Steve Helber / AP

Education, gun violence prevention and health care were focal issues of Hasmi's campaign, and the Senate-elect for Virginia's 10th district often criticized Stutevant for his vote against Medicaid expansion. Her win has been noted as integral for Democrats hoping to flip control of the Senate.

“This victory, is not mine alone," Hashmi tweeted Tuesday. "It belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia, for all of you who felt that you haven’t had a voice and believed in me to be yours in the General Assembly."

Abrar Omeish, Fairfax County School Board

Another Muslim woman, Abrar Omeish, made history Tuesday when she was elected to the Fairfax County School Board. At 24 years old, Omeish is both the youngest woman and along with Hashmi, one of the first Muslim women, to hold office in Virginia. Omeish's staff featured 13 high school students working on field operations and policy.

Omeish grew up in Fairfax and is a graduate of Yale University. She wants to implement universal Pre-K and prioritize mental health care in schools.

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The No. 1 thing I heard from [students] is mental health,” Omeish told Patch. “They may have friends who are suicidal, they may be stressed out, they may have negative coping habits. I want to make sure we provide those resources, and we do that by lowering the ratio of students and psychologists.”

Daniel Cameron, attorney general of Kentucky

Daniel Cameron won his race for attorney general of Kentucky on Tuesday, making him the first black person to be elected to that position. Cameron, a former legal counsel for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is also the first Republican attorney general elected in the state in more than 70 years.

Kentucky Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron delivers his victory speech in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 5, 2019.Timothy D. Easley / AP

Cameron, 33, defeated Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who served as attorney general from 2004 to 2008 and was speaker of the state’s House of Representatives from 2009 to 2017. During his campaign, Cameron expressed support for President Donald Trump's border wall and ran on traditional conservative issues, such as opposing gun control and abortion. At a rally Monday in Lexington, Trump praised Cameron.

"A star is born," Trump said at the rally. ""A star is born. Have you ever seen that movie, a star is born?"

Safiya Khalid, Lewiston, Maine, City Council

Safiya Khalid became the first Somali American elected to Lewiston City Council in Maine on Tuesday. The election to the council was contentious as Khalid was subjected to social media criticism and threats from internet trolls who told her that Muslims had no place in the U.S. government. Yet during her victory speech, Khalid said her campaign was evidence that “community organizers beat internet trolls.”

Khalid, 23, is a Somali refugee who fled the country at age 7. While a student at the University of Southern Maine, she ran unsuccessfully for the school board, but her desire to hold public office persisted.

After finishing her day job as a youth mentor at a nonprofit, Khalid would knock on doors around her community, sharing her campaign platform, which included building more affordable housing and addressing lead contamination.

Nadia Mohamad, St. Louis Park, Minn., City Council

Nadia Mohamad became the first Muslim woman and the first Somali elected to the city council in St. Louis Park, Minn. The 23-year-old served for three years on the St. Louis Park Police Department's Multicultural Advisory Committee, hosting events to bring community members of different backgrounds together.

On her website, Mohamad said she wants to bring her perspective as a young adult and Muslim woman of color to the city's leadership.

"I have unique life experiences and a passion for the betterment of our city and its residents," she wrote.

Chol Majok, Syracuse 3rd District Common Council

Chol Majok said he had dreams of becoming an elected official since he was young, and those dreams came true when he won Syracuse, New York's 3rd District Common Council Seat.

The 34-year-old Democrat, who fled South Sudan for the U.S. in 2001, will represent six neighborhoods in the city.

"For me, for many of us here in Syracuse ... we refugees have lived in foreign lands almost all our lives," Majok told Syracuse.com. "We really never had a stable place we could call home. It's so important to all of them, to see one of our own people accomplish this."

Matt Hughes, Hillsborough, N.C., Board of Commissioners

Matt Hughes ran to keep his seat on the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners and won — maintaining his position as the first and only LGBTQ+ person of color to hold a spot on the board.

Hughes, 28, grew up in Hillsborough and ran on a campaign of supporting local businesses, promoting affordable housing and working toward better transit solutions and sustainability.

"I'm committed to protecting Hillsborough's historic character and charm, while bolstering our town's vitality for all who live here," Hughes wrote on his website.

Lynn Fitch, Attorney General of Mississippi

Lynn Fitch has always admired the late Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy, the first female elected to a statewide office in Mississippi. In fact, Gandy partly inspired Fitch to launch her own campaign.

On Tuesday, Fitch became the first woman to serve as Mississippi's attorney general. Protecting Mississippians from deceptive practices, especially those that target veterans, the elderly, children and the mentally ill, and fighting the state's opioid crisis are among Fitch's paramount priorities in her new role.

"I'm so blessed to be part of this history," Fitch said Tuesday night. "This is history for the entire state."