The New Wave of Women of Color in the 117th Congress

A record number of women ran for office in 2020, surpassing the record set in the 2018 midterm election. Many women have won up and down the ballot including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. 26 non-incumbent women have been elected so far as a result of the 2020 election—9 Democrats and 17 Republicans. Check out some of the firsts in the 117th Congress who will be sworn in on January 3, 2021. 

1. Cori Bush (D-MO) 

Cori Anika Bush will represent the first congressional district of Missouri. Bush is the first Black woman to get elected to the U.S. House from the state of Missouri. She is also a nurse and pastor. Representative-elect Bush graduated from the Lutheran School of Nursing. 

2. Maria Salazar (R-FL) 

Representative-elect Maria Elvira Salazar is elected to the 27th legislative district of Florida. Born in Miami, Salazar’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba. She attended the University of Miami, and then John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she received her master’s degree. 

3. Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) 

Marilyn Strickland has been elected to the U.S. House for the 10th congressional district of Washington. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Strickland will be the first Korean American Congresswoman and the first Black Congress member from Washington. She graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree and graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a master’s in business administration. Representative-elect Strickland was also the Mayor of Tacoma in the state of Washington.   

4. Michelle Steel (R-CA)

Michelle Eunjoo Park Steel will serve in the U.S. House and represent the 48th legislative district of California. Representative-elect Steel attended Pepperdine University for her bachelor’s degree and the University of Southern California for a master’s degree. Representative-elects Steel, Strickland, and Kim are the first women representatives of Korean heritage elected to serve in Congress. 

5. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) 

Nicole Malliotakis has been elected to the U.S. House for the 11th legislative district of the state of New York. Malliotakis has been serving in the New York State Assembly since 2011, becoming the only woman elected in New York City from a Republican Party. She received a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University and an MBA from Wagner College. Malliotakis is of Greek and Cuban heritage. 

6. Nikema Williams (D-GA)

Nikema Williams represents the 5th congressional district of the state of Georgia. She has served in the Georgia State Senate for the 39th district since 2017. Representative-elect Williams graduated from Talladega College. In 2019, Williams was the first Black woman elected to chair the Georgia Democratic Party.

7. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) 

Born in Oklahoma, Stephanie Bice is the first Iranian-American to serve in Congress. Since 2014, she has represented the 22nd district in the Oklahoma State Senate. Representative-elect Bice attended Oklahoma State University, with a bachelor's degree in marketing and a minor in international business. 

8. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) 

Teresa Leger Fernandez has been elected to the U.S. House from the 3rd legislative district of  New Mexico. She attended Yale University for a bachelor’s degree and Stanford University for a J.D degree. All three congressional districts in the state of New Mexico will be represented by women of color in the U.S. House, making it the first state in history to elect all women of color to the U.S. House of Representatives. 

9. Young Kim (R-CA) 

Representative-elect Young O. Kim represents the 39th congressional district of California. Along with Representative-elects Steel and Strickland, Kim is the first Korean-American woman to serve in Congress. Previously, she was elected as California State Assemblywoman representing the 65th district. Kim received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. 

10. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) 

Representative-elect Yvette Herrell will serve in the U.S. House from the 2nd congressional district of New Mexico. Born in New Mexico, Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation. She graduated from the ITT Technical Institute. Previously, Herrell represented District 51 in the New Mexico House of Representatives. 

Despite the increase in the number of women getting elected to Congress, they currently comprise less than 25% of seats in the House and Senate in the 116th Congress. However, the election of Sen. Kamala Harris as Vice President is the beginning of a new dawn for the future of women in U.S. politics. In her victory speech on November 7, 2020, Vice President-elect Harris said, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.” 

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