Election Collection: The New Faces of American Politics

By Shrida Pandey, Marisa Guerra Echeverria, and Lyanne Wang, Online News Editor and Staff Writers

// The 2020 United States (U.S.) election cycle brought a historical amount of increased representation and diversity in politics. With the first transgender state senator, the first non-binary state senator, and an African and Asian American Vice President-elect; BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ people have made great strides in the political field through election and re-election.

   The election of these underrepresented minority groups made the 117th U.S. Congress the most diverse in American history.

   Many Acalanes High School students believe that this political presence in the country allows for a greater representation of minoritized groups. 

   “It’s important to have people from marginalized groups in government because it gives younger people in those marginalized groups hope for seeing themselves represented in [the] government,” Queer Straight Alliance club President and junior Autumn Long said. 

   Use the interactive map below to see profiles on 12 people who contributed to the rise in equity and diversity in political offices. 

Interactive Map

Click on a specific area below to read a profile on one of the new faces of American politics.

Interactive Map
Missouri - Cori Bush New York - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mondaire Jones, and Ritchie Torres Minnesota - Ilhan Omar Massachusetts - Ayanna Pressley Rhode Island - Tiara Mack Rhode Island - Tiara Mack Michigan - Rashida Tlaib Michigan - Rashida Tlaib Delaware - Sarah McBride Delaware - Sarah McBride Oklahoma - Mauree Turner Colorado - Iman Jodeh Washington D.C. - Kamala Harris Washington D.C. - Kamala Harris Massachusetts - Ayanna Pressley

Missouri - Cori Bush

Cori Bush (D) - U.S. Congresswoman for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District

   Cori Bush is the representative-elect for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. She is an ordained pastor, registered nurse, and activist for the Black Lives Matter movement. Bush is also the co-founder of the Truth-Telling Project, an organization that educates people on systemic racism and combats police brutality. She is the first Black woman and nurse to represent the state of Missouri.

   Bush resolved to run for office after protesting and participating as a medic in Ferguson, Mo. following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, in 2014. In her 100 percent grassroots campaign, Bush pledged to put people first when elected as House Representative.

  Some of Bush’s main focuses will be public safety, campaign finance reform, LGBTQ+ equality, Medicare for All, immigration reform, and criminal justice and police reform.

New York - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mondaire Jones, and Ritchie Torres

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) - U.S. Congresswoman for New York’s 14th Congressional District 

   Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the re-elected representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District, winning both terms with a grassroots campaign. She was first sworn into office in Jan. 2019 for her first term and was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Her previous professional background includes working with Senator Ted Kennedy on immigration affairs, becoming a volunteer organizer for Bernie Sanders’ campaigns, and founding the book publisher Brook Avenue Press.

   One of the motivations behind both of Ocasio-Cortez’s campaigns was to address the various inequalities across New York’s zip codes that she witnessed while growing up with her Puerto-Rican and working-class background in the Bronx.

  Ocasio-Cortez’s main priorities include addressing environmental concerns with the Green New Deal, providing support for Puerto-Rico, ensuring public safety, safeguarding LGBTQ+ rights, reforming immigration policies, and abolishing the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Ritchie Torres (D) - U.S. Congressman for New York’s 15th Congressional District

   Ritchie Torres is a member of the New York City Council representing District 15. He defeated Patrick Delices in the general election on Nov. 3 after winning 88.2 percent of the votes. At 25 years old, Torres became the youngest elected official in New York City as well as one of the first openly gay political candidates in the Bronx to win the Democratic Party nomination and become a public official. 

  Some of Torres’ goals while in office are to implement quality healthcare, housing, schools, and jobs as well as standing up for immigrants, seniors, and youth. His policies will protect neighborhoods from gun violence to make the Bronx a safer and more affordable place to live.

Mondaire Jones (D) - U.S. Congressman for New York's 17th Congressional District

   Mondaire Jones is the representative-elect for New York’s 17th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jones will assume office on Jan. 3, 2021 after gaining over half of the popular vote in the general election on Nov. 3. He will be one of the first gay Black men elected to Congress. 

   As a member of the House, Jones plans on fighting for climate action, national security, and financial freedom. He also hopes to guarantee healthcare as a right, push forth the rights of the working people, and provide equal access to education.

 

Minnesota - Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar (D) - U.S. Congresswoman for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional DIstrict 

   Ilhan Omar is the re-elected representative for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. She is the first woman of color to be elected as a Minnesotan representative, the first Somali-American Congressmember in the U.S., and one of the first two Muslim women voted into Congress.

   Before her election to Congress, Omar was a representative at Minnesota’s House of Representatives, an educator at the University of Minnesota, and a Senior Policy Aide to the Minneapolis City Council. 

   Omar gained an interest in politics while growing up in Minnesota as a former refugee from Somalia. After encountering various obstacles as an immigrant in America, Omar resolved to run for office to make America a more welcoming place for incoming immigrants.

  Some of her top priorities are environmental justice, inclusive foreign policy, Medicare for All, immigration reform, and raising the minimum wage.

 

Massachusetts - Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley (D) - U.S. Congresswoman for Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District

  Ayanna Pressley was re-elected for her second term to represent Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District. Previously, she was a representative for the Boston City Council and a senior aide to Senator John Kerry and Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II. Bush was also the first woman of color elected to the Boston City Council and Massachusetts' House of Representatives.

   After participating and heading several major reforms in her eight years in the Boston City Council, Pressley decided to run for Congress to provide a platform for her past experiences while growing up with domestic abuse, criminal reform, and single-parenthood.

  Several of Pressley’s main priorities are criminal justice reform, addressing community trauma, expanding educational opportunities throughout all zip codes, gender equality, and combating the American housing crisis.

 

Rhode Island - Tiara Mack

Tiara Mack (D) - Representative in Rhode Island’s State Senate for District 6

   Tiara Mack won Rhode Island’s District 6 State Senator election with more than 88 percent of the votes. Mack is the first Black LGBTQ+ lawmaker in Rhode Island’s State Senate. Mack’s previous experience includes being on the Board of the East Side YMCA and the Board of Women’s Health and Education and Fund.

  Mack ran in the District 6 State Senate election because she wanted to increase LGBTQ+ political representation. She hopes to inspire younger generations to use their voices by being a role model for them in politics. Mack aims to continue advocating for reproductive rights, criminal justice reform, and free public college.

Rhode Island - Tiara Mack

Tiara Mack (D) - Representative in Rhode Island’s State Senate for District 6

   Tiara Mack won Rhode Island’s District 6 State Senator election with more than 88 percent of the votes. Mack is the first Black LGBTQ+ lawmaker in Rhode Island’s State Senate. Mack’s previous experience includes being on the Board of the East Side YMCA and the Board of Women’s Health and Education and Fund.

  Mack ran in the District 6 State Senate election because she wanted to increase LGBTQ+ political representation. She hopes to inspire younger generations to use their voices by being a role model for them in politics. Mack aims to continue advocating for reproductive rights, criminal justice reform, and free public college.

Michigan - Rashida Tlaib

Rashida Tlaib (D) - U.S. Congresswoman for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District 

   Rashida Tlaib won re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives to represent Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. Prior to the general election on Nov. 3, Tlaib ran for the regularly scheduled election for the 2019-2021 term as well as the special election for the 2017-2019 term. Tlaib lost the primary election to Brenda Jones but defeated Jones in the regular election.

   In 2008, Tlaib made history when she became the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan House of Representatives. During her time in the Michigan House of Representatives representing District 12 from 2009 to 2015, Tlaib helped secure millions of dollars for free health clinics. Along with Ilhan Omar, the two became the first Muslim women to serve in Congress in 2018.

  Tlaib strives to provide a better quality of life for the working class. Her policies revolve around working towards clean air and drinking water, establishing economic and housing justice, and fighting for civil rights.

 

Michigan - Rashida Tlaib

Rashida Tlaib (D) - U.S. Congresswoman for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District 

   Rashida Tlaib won re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives to represent Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. Prior to the general election on Nov. 3, Tlaib ran for the regularly scheduled election for the 2019-2021 term as well as the special election for the 2017-2019 term. Tlaib lost the primary election to Brenda Jones but defeated Jones in the regular election.

   In 2008, Tlaib made history when she became the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan House of Representatives. During her time in the Michigan House of Representatives representing District 12 from 2009 to 2015, Tlaib helped secure millions of dollars for free health clinics. Along with Ilhan Omar, the two became the first Muslim women to serve in Congress in 2018.

  Tlaib strives to provide a better quality of life for the working class. Her policies revolve around working towards clean air and drinking water, establishing economic and housing justice, and fighting for civil rights.

 

Delaware - Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride (D) - Representative in Delaware’s State Senate for District 1    

   Sarah McBride is a member of the Delaware State Senate representing District 1. McBride defeated Steve Washington in the general election for the Delaware State Senate on Nov. 3 after receiving 73.3 percent of the votes. She assumed office on Nov. 4, becoming the first openly transgender state senator as well as the nation’s highest-ranking transgender official.

   McBride previously worked in the 2012 Obama administration and became the first transgender woman to speak at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Her win helped break down many boundaries for the transgender community, a historically underrepresented group in government. 

  McBride is fighting for opportunity for all. She aims to make healthcare more affordable, reform the criminal justice system, and expand paid leave for women and essential workers.

Delaware - Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride (D) - Representative in Delaware’s State Senate for District 1    

   Sarah McBride is a member of the Delaware State Senate representing District 1. McBride defeated Steve Washington in the general election for the Delaware State Senate on Nov. 3 after receiving 73.3 percent of the votes. She assumed office on Nov. 4, becoming the first openly transgender state senator as well as the nation’s highest-ranking transgender official.

   McBride previously worked in the 2012 Obama administration and became the first transgender woman to speak at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Her win helped break down many boundaries for the transgender community, a historically underrepresented group in government. 

  McBride is fighting for opportunity for all. She aims to make healthcare more affordable, reform the criminal justice system, and expand paid leave for women and essential workers.

Oklahoma - Mauree Turner

Mauree Turner (D) - Representative in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives for District 88 

   Mauree Turner is the District 88 representative-elect in the Oklahoma House of Representatives after winning the election with 71 percent of the votes. They became the first non-binary state lawmaker and Muslim in the Oklahoma Legislature Branch. Prior to their win, Turner worked as a board member on the Council on American-Islamic Relations and with the American Civil Liberties Union to promote criminal justice reform. 

   Turner decided to run for the Oklahoma House of Representatives to increase representation for minority communities and to fight for civil rights. Their interest in politics started after wanting to fight back against systematic problems minorities faced in Oklahoma. 

  Their main goal in office is to reform the criminal justice system. Other policies include raising the minimum wage, integrating healthcare, and increasing funding towards the public school education system.

Colorado - Iman Jodeh

Iman Jodeh (D) - Representative in Colorado’s House of Representatives for District 41 

   Iman Jodeh won the election to represent Colorado’s District 41 with more than 66 percent of the votes. She will be the first Muslim lawmaker in Colorado’s history. Her previous experience includes founding the organization Meet the Middle East and being a community advocate for the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado.

  Jodeh ran for a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives to help improve the daily lives of all Colorado residents. She also wants to increase representation for the Palestinian and Muslim communities. 

  During her time in office, Jodeh will work on increasing healthcare affordability, reducing dangerous sources of energy, and minimizing incarceration. She will fight for an equitable economy and a higher minimum wage.

 

Washington D.C. - Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris (D) - U.S. Vice President

   Kamala Harris is the Vice President-elect of the United States after winning the 2020 Presidential Election alongside President-elect Joe Biden. Harris will be the first female, Asian, and African American Vice President. Harris' previous experience includes being a Senator and the Attorney General of California where she worked on creating policies towards gun control, women’s equality, and privacy rights. 

   Harris originally ran for the Presidential nomination before dropping out of the race in December 2019 due to a shortage of funds. She endorsed Joe Biden in March who subsequently picked her as his running mate on Aug. 20.

  As Vice President, Harris will advocate for immigration reform, reproductive rights, and climate change policies. Harris will also serve as the President of the Senate and will be allowed to vote in tie-breakers.

Washington D.C. - Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris (D) - U.S. Vice President

   Kamala Harris is the Vice President-elect of the United States after winning the 2020 Presidential Election alongside President-elect Joe Biden. Harris will be the first female, Asian, and African American Vice President. Harris' previous experience includes being a Senator and the Attorney General of California where she worked on creating policies towards gun control, women’s equality, and privacy rights. 

   Harris originally ran for the Presidential nomination before dropping out of the race in December 2019 due to a shortage of funds. She endorsed Joe Biden in March who subsequently picked her as his running mate on Aug. 20.

  As Vice President, Harris will advocate for immigration reform, reproductive rights, and climate change policies. Harris will also serve as the President of the Senate and will be allowed to vote in tie-breakers.

 

Massachusetts - Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley (D) - U.S. Congresswoman for Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District

  Ayanna Pressley was re-elected for her second term to represent Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District. Previously, she was a representative for the Boston City Council and a senior aide to Senator John Kerry and Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II. Bush was also the first woman of color elected to the Boston City Council and Massachusetts' House of Representatives.

   After participating and heading several major reforms in her eight years in the Boston City Council, Pressley decided to run for Congress to provide a platform for her past experiences while growing up with domestic abuse, criminal reform, and single-parenthood.

  Several of Pressley’s main priorities are criminal justice reform, addressing community trauma, expanding educational opportunities throughout all zip codes, gender equality, and combating the American housing crisis.

Impact on the Acalanes Community

   The rise in political representation for minorities in American office leaves a lasting and inspiring impact upon the Acalanes community, which does not have the same degree of diversity.

   “I think there’s little diversity at Acalanes especially in regards to race, which is also just true of the area we live in, Lamorinda,” sophomore Lauren Kuo said.

   According to U.S. News and World Report, Acalanes High School is a predominantly white school with its white student population making up around 71 percent of the school. Minority groups make up around 29 percent of the student population, with 12 percent Asian, 7 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Black, 0.1 percent Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander, 0 percent Native Indian/Alaskan Native, and 8 percent two or more races. 

   However, within these racial and ethnic demographics in the Acalanes student body, there is a multitude of different cultures that many students feel the school underrepresents and overlooks.

   “I think that [the student body] needs to pay attention to things that are in everyone’s culture so that [people] are free to express themselves in their culture… From what I’ve seen, [events] are very whitewashed. There’s not a lot of diversity when it comes to religion, freely expressing values, or cultures,” senior Ryland Nella said.

   Likewise, some students feel that Acalanes Leadership does not fully represent the student body due to the class’s insufficient minority representation. 

   “I think that there should definitely be more diversity among the students within Leadership based on my experience,” Leadership Spirit Board member and sophomore Sophie Westen said. “I am in a board of nine people and they are all white except our [Acalanes Student Body] representative, and I think that the rest of Leadership follows a similar pattern.”

   Students argue that there should be more minority visibility within the leaders of their school.

   “It’s important to be shown perspectives different from your own no matter your race or gender, starting in school,” Kuo said.

   Leadership and Ethnic Studies teacher Katherine Walton agrees that more work needs to happen before Leadership can fully represent all Acalanes students. 

   “[Representation in Leadership] is definitely something that I, along with administration and student leaders, have been working on,” Walton said. “I definitely look at the data in terms of race and have had conversations with administration, District staff, and the other leadership teachers in the District about the work that needs to happen so that the program does fully represent the whole student body.”

   A majority of these diverse perspectives currently come from Acalanes’ equity clubs which are student-run clubs that serve as safe spaces for different marginalized groups on campus. Equity clubs also provide insight for issues on-campus pertaining to different groups by raising awareness through club events, meetings, and dialogues.

   “By allowing students to have affinity spaces for alike groups, it helps build unity among minorities and helps people feel more welcome. Overall, having equity clubs brings awareness to campus and brings perspective to students of different backgrounds,” Asian-American Student Union President and senior Kylie Alfaro said.

  Equity club members also hope that the Acalanes community would place more emphasis on recognizing equity clubs for their integral role in building cultural awareness.

   “[Acalanes] doesn’t represent minorities how they say they are. Our school is very white and we don’t give people of color or LGBT people enough credit. We have a lot of signs and events that [would] happen if we were in in-person school, but no one goes to them, so that doesn’t give [minorities] enough representation,” Nella said.

   Some students worry that the lack of diversity within Acalanes’ leadership positions can be damaging to minorities on campus.

   “I think having those people in positions of our governmental power should inspire our school to put people in places of power, to put minorities in positions of power and in our administration which will therefore inspire students to get into positions of power whether that’s on the school board [or] Leadership,” Latinos Unidos President, Black Student Union secretary, and senior Zevin Acuña said.

   The increased political representation nationwide further empowers students to step into important roles both within and outside their community.

   “Having more minority people with political power and platforms allow them to be role models for people of color. It can continue to show minority groups that they can make a difference in their own community,” junior Aviruchi Dawadi said. 

   Moreover, the growing number of minorities in political offices may help to fight against injustices happening in everyday society.

   “Minorities in power will be able to work towards fighting the racism embedded in institutions and represent groups that might not otherwise have a voice… This is a step in the right direction,” Westen said. 

   Along with the record-breaking amount of racial and ethnic diversity in Congress this term, students hope that the increased intersectional and LGBTQ+ congressional presence will push pertaining struggles to the forefront of congressional policies.

   “If we just had all white, cis-gender, straight people [as U.S. representatives], there’ll be no diversity whatsoever and they wouldn’t know what to do for people of color, people who are LGBT, and people who are trans,” Nella said.

   The historic election and re-election of many people of color, LGBTQ+ community members, and women may redefine the future for minority representation in American offices.

   “People can never learn unless they engage and interact with those around them, and if those people are all the same, division will persist,” Westen said.

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