By Ellen McGirt
Updated: November 8, 2017 12:53 PM ET

Tuesday’s elections appear to be, almost across the board, a victory for candidates with inclusive messages and profiles.

Hoboken voters elected Ravinder Balla as mayor, making him the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey history. He was also one of several New Jersey candidates who had been targeted by anonymous, racist campaign fliers. Balla, who wears a turban, appeared on posters that said, “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town!” Two other candidates, Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel were elected to the Edison, NJ. school board despite openly racist leafletting imploring voters to “Make Edison Great Again,” including a specific complaint about cricket fields.

The allegedly “completely unelectable” Larry Krasner, a longtime civil rights attorney who has represented Black Lives Matter and who has sued the police department, was elected as Philadelphia’s district attorney.

Vi Lyles is now Charlotte, North Carolina’s first female African-American mayor. “With this opportunity you’ve given me, you’ve proven that we are a city of opportunity and inclusiveness,” she told supporters.

Kathy Tran, who was barely two when she came to the U.S. with her parents as refugees from Vietnam, became the first Asian-American woman to join Virginia’s House of Delegates. The workforce policy expert, so alarmed by the activities of the Trump administration, did much of her canvassing with her four children in tow, her youngest just nine months.

Tran was part of a wave of Democratic candidates – many now elected officials – who are also raising young children. Having families has traditionally been a barrier for younger women seeking office. But as women find themselves drawn to public service, they’re also finding creative ways to support each other and muddle through — like a Slack channel dedicated to helping them brainstorm solutions to thorny issues like breastfeeding while canvassing and campaigning with toddlers.

New Jersey and Virginia both elected black lieutenant governors; Sheila Oliver is New Jersey’s first, while Justin Fairfax in Virginia, a former prosecutor, is the second African-American to win statewide office.

But Virginia stole the spotlight in many important ways.

Democrat Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie, who relied on tough-Trumpian rhetoric about immigration and gang violence in his campaign. The closely watched contest boasted the highest voter turnout for a gubernatorial election in twenty years. “Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry, and to end the politics that have torn this country apart,” said Northam in his acceptance speech.

In a stunning upset, progressive candidates also picked up at least fifteen seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, including Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala, who defeated Republican incumbents to become the first two Latinas elected to the Virginia House.

But the Shakespearean moment of the night belongs to former journalist Danica Roem, 33, a singer in a metal band, devoted stepmother, and now a new state legislator. She also ran as an openly transgender person. If she takes office, she’ll be the first openly transgender person to run and win state office.

In a poignant twist, her opponent was incumbent Robert G. Marshall, a 73-year-old conservative firebrand, now best known for his failed effort to put forth a bill designed to regulate which bathrooms transgender people use. While he cheekily referred to himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe,” he also misgendered Roem throughout the campaign and refused to appear on stage with her face-to-face.

“Discrimination is a disqualifier,” Roem said. “This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”


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