People of color made history on election night in 2021, bringing diversity to leadership roles in some of America’s biggest cities, and in some states as well.
Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and Dearborn, Mich., were among the places that a majority of voters embraced minority candidates.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most high-profile wins — a list that we’ll be updating as results continue to be come in:
Michelle Wu is the first woman and person of color to be elected Boston’s mayor
The city councilor and daughter of Taiwanese immigrants broke Boston’s 199-year streak of white, male city leaders. She defeated fellow Democratic City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, a self-described first-generation Arab-Polish American.
As NPR’s Vanessa Romo reports, “For many, the race came down to competing visions of the future with Essaibi George’s version cast as more of the old guard and Wu’s perceived as new-school Boston.” Here are some of Wu’s priorities.
Pittsburgh elects Ed Gainey, the city’s first Black mayor ever
The western Pennsylvania metropolis, which is 23% Black, largely favored the Democrat Gainey over Republican challenger Tony Moreno. Gainey was born and raised by a single mother in Pittsburgh, where he lived in public housing and later found a career in politics. “We know how people have talked about Pittsburgh, how siloed it is, how segregated it is,” Gainey told supporters on Tuesday, according to member station WESA. “But today, you changed that.”
Eric Adams becomes the second Black man to lead New York City in its history
New Yorkers chose Democrat Eric Adams, a former police department captain, as the city’s second Black mayor, in a landslide win.
Adams, a former state senator who is currently the Brooklyn borough president, takes over from Bill de Blasio, whose second term was mired in the pandemic and economic turbulence including historic job losses, skyrocketing housing prices and rental rates, and extreme income inequality.
Adams branded himself as the blue-collar candidate. He made combating gun violence and improving public safety a main focus of his campaign, while also calling for cuts to the NYPD’s budget and shifting some jobs to civilians that have been done by officers. More on the race here.
Cincinnati elects Aftab Pureval, its first Asian American mayor
The 39-year-old Democrat started his political career six years ago as an outsider, member station WVXU reports, and last night he defeated 82-year-old opponent David Mann, “a longtime pillar of Cincinnati City Hall.”
The son of immigrants from India, Pureval earned his law degree and worked for Procter & Gamble before running successfully for Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in 2016.
He is the fourth person to be elected under the direct election of the mayor system, in a race that saw remarkably low turnout at 24%. WVXU has more on Pureval here.
Winsome Sears will be the first Black woman to be Virginia’s lieutenant governor
It’s the highest office a woman of color has won so far in Virginia’s history. Sears, a Republican, won a race that highlighted diversity: her Democratic opponent, Hala Ayala, comes from a family with Salvadoran, Irish, Lebanese and North African heritage.
“What you are looking at is the American dream,” Sears, a pro-Trump former Marine, said, according to WAMU. “I didn’t run to make history. I ran to leave it better than I found it … Help is on the way.”
Abdullah Hammoud becomes the first Arab-American and Muslim mayor of Dearborn, Michigan
The Detroit suburb boasts one of the largest Arab communities in the U.S., but that had never been reflected in the city’s highest office. Hammoud, the son of Lebanese immigrants, dedicated his victory speech Tuesday night to “any young girls or boys who have been ridiculed for their faith or ethnicity.” The Democratic state representative defeated his opponent, longtime Michigan politician Gary Woronchak.
Tyrone Garner will be the first Black mayor of Kansas City, Kansas
In his first political race, Garner unseated one-term incumbent David Alvey in the race to lead Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County — which have a unified government.
Garner, like Adams in New York, is a former high-ranking police officer. He retired as deputy chief in June 2019, according to member station KCUR. But unlike Adams, his campaign focused not on getting tough on crime but on improving economic equity and public services, particularly for people in neglected neighborhoods. “I am a forward thinker that wants to be a unifying force to facilitate opportunity, equity and hope,” he told KCUR.
Alvin Bragg is Manhattan’s new District Attorney, the first Black person to hold the job
A native of Harlem, Bragg was most recently the Chief Deputy Attorney General of New York State. He’ll lead an office that’s currently pursuing an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business practices. Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced earlier this year that he would not seek a fourth term.
Bruce Harrell seizes a big lead in Seattle’s mayoral race
Harrell would be the first Asian American and the second Black person to lead Seattle. All of the city’s votes are not yet counted, but Harrell has 65% of the tally so far, compared to 35% for Lorena González, who would become the city’s first Latina mayor if she somehow manages to stage a comeback.
Harrell is a moderate who took González, a progressive, to task over her support for defunding the police. “I would say to the abolitionists and the defunders that we need to drive outcomes and invest in outcomes that we want,” he said, according to member station KUOW. “We want culturally competent, de-escalating officers who take their oath of office in such a way that they will protect all communities.”
It will be days before Seattle’s vote is final, in part because ballots can still be mailed on Election Day. In recent years, no candidate has surmounted a 30% early deficit, the Seattle Times says. KUOW says, “Seattle’s Election Night reflected a regional and national trend, of liberals getting trounced.”