This presidential election season has been many things—horrifying, excruciating, insulting, depressing. But it’s also historic. Whoever wins, it will be a first. Either we’ll have the first woman president in the history of the United States, or we’ll have our first-ever orange president.
But we're not just electing a president this year. All over the country, in every state and county, at every level of government, there are races where potential history is capable of being made—where voters could elect the first-ever women, queer people, or people of color in a variety of offices. And there's plenty of history that needs to be made. For instance, 10 states have never elected a single person of color to a statewide office.
Below, you'll meet some of the people who, if they win on Tuesday, would be trailblazers in their field. Even if they don't turn out to be great politicians, they'll all land a spot in the record books.
First openly gay man elected to the U.S. Senate
Gray, the mayor of Lexington, is taking on Rand Paul as the Democratic candidate in a challenging Kentucky Senate race. He would serve with Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay person of any gender to win a Senate seat. In their only debate, Gray accused Paul of having “wild-ass philosophies and theories.”
First Latina elected to the U.S. Senate
Despite the efforts of many conservatives in her home state of Nevada to question her Latina heritage, Democrat Cortez Masto stands to become the first Latina elected to the Senate should she win her race against Rep. Joe Heck. The campaign, whose outcome could decide which party wins a majority in the chamber, has been one of the most closely watched Senate contests in the country.
In addition to fighting for immigrant rights, Cortez Masto has also vowed to press for campaign finance reform after the Koch brothers poured $6 million into the race in hopes of defeating her bid.
First transgender woman elected to the U.S. Senate
Though she was also working a day job as a cashier at a grocery store outside of Salt Lake City, Misty K. Snow managed to trounce her Democratic opponent in Utah’s Democratic Senate primary earlier this year. In doing so, Snow became the first transgender Senate nominee for either of the country’s two main political parties. Snow now faces tough competition in her majority red state where she’s facing off against Republican incumbent Sen. Mike Lee.
First biracial woman elected to the U.S. Senate
Harris, a Democrat, is a heavy favorite to win her race. If she does, she'll become the country's first Indian-American senator and California's first African American and Asian-American senator.
First openly gay man to represent Washington state in the House of Representatives
Walkinshaw is running against another first on our list (Pramila Jayapal) for a chance to represent Washington’s 7th Congressional district, one of the more Democratic districts on the West Coast. Just 32, Walkinshaw served in the state House of Representatives for three years. The Seattle Times calls him a “serious policy wonk” who would prioritize penalizing carbon polluters.
First refugee elected to Congress
Bao Nguyen is a 36-year-old, openly gay Vietnamese immigrant who became the mayor of Garden Grove, California, back in 2014. The former substitute school teacher secured his mayoral victory by building upon his close relationships with Garden Grove's diverse community and as a congressman, he's vowed to bring that same kind of cross-cultural empathy and understanding to his legislating.
First transgender woman to serve in the House of Representatives
Plowright isn’t considered to have much of a shot against incumbent Republican Doug Lamborn, who has presided over one of Colorado’s conservative 5th Congressional District since 2007. But winning isn’t necessarily the point, here—in an interview, Plowright told the Denver Post she thinks she’s “stirred something” within the Democratic base.
First openly gay Republican elected to the House of Representatives
Babeu, the Pinal (Arizona) County sheriff, won the Republican primary for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District on the strength of a Trump-like message on immigration. In 2012, he caused controversy for allegedly threatening to deport his Mexican ex-boyfriend after the ex threatened to expose their relationship.
First Chinese-American Republican woman elected to the House of Representatives
Gitsham is gunning for a spot in California’s 52nd Congressional District, running against incumbent Democrat Scott Peters. Though Peters has occupied the position since 2013, the 52nd was long held by conservative Duncan Hunter, the father of the vaping congressman.
First Dominican-American elected to Congress
At the age of nine, Espaillat came to the U.S. with his mother and brother from the Dominican Republic using tourist visas. Described by his supporters as the Dominican equivalent of Neil Armstrong of politics, Espaillat’s virtually certain victory in the race to represent New York's 13th Congressional District could signal a new wave of Dominican representation in both local and national politics.
Florida’s first Puerto Rican congressman
Darren Soto’s ascendance through Florida’s state Senate and House of Representatives reflects the growing influence of the Puerto Rican community on Central Florida’s politics. As the son of two Puerto Rican immigrants, Soto has pledged that his time on Capitol Hill would be dedicated to advocating for immigration reform from “a moral point of view” with a focus on humanity.
First Native American congressman from North Dakota
Even though North Dakota is home to more than 30,000 Native people, Chase Iron Eyes could be the first to secure a Congressional seat. This has special significance at a time when indigenous people in the state have drawn the world's attention with protests against the proposed Dakota Access pipeline.
During his campaign, Iron Eyes has faced multiple challenges from skeptical voters who've expressed doubt about whether he, as a man of Native heritage, could effectively represent the concerns of non-Native people. In response, Iron Eyes has taken it upon himself to convey the idea that his ethnicity both makes him a unique part of North Dakota's history and doesn't change the fact that he's every bit the American citizen as his constituents are.
First Albanian-American elected to Congress
After graduating from Oakland University and receiving her legal degree from Western Michigan University, Shkreli, a Democrat, went on to become the county prosecutor for the Child Protection Unit in Macomb, Michigan. Shkreli’s campaign has emphasized how she worked her way through school with the help of student loans and how she plans to bring her experience as a prosecutor in domestic violence and homicide cases to Capitol Hill.
First Indian-American woman elected to Congress
Pramila Jayapal has made a name for herself by denouncing the “1 percent” that she sees as the main social force gentrifying Seattle into a white city. She’s pledged to bring that same fiery passion for representation to her tenure as Congresswoman if she wins.
First woman and African-American to represent Delaware in Congress
Rochester, a Democrat, has listed spending on social programs, job creation, and gun control as some of the main issues in her campaign. Unlike her opponent, Hans Reigle, she’s also committed supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and is pushing for Delaware to become a sanctuary state, which would enable undocumented residents to live there without fear of legal persecution.
First Native American woman in Congress
Denise Juneau has spent the past nine years advocating for changes to Montana’s approach to public education. If elected she would be both the first female Montanan elected to Congress in over 60 years and also the first openly queer Montanan ever to hold federal office.
First woman to serve as Oregon State Treasurer
Telfer, a former Oregon state senator, is running as an independent in a tightly contested three-person race. In early October, the state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, endorsed her for the position, citing her “legislative experience” and a “sense of urgency to a role” that “has been too much of a figurehead.”
First black woman elected to Washington statewide office
Jones is running for state superintendent against longtime state senator Chris Reykdal. A former schoolteacher, Jones is campaigning on the promise of bringing an outsider's perspective to a position that she sees as excessively insular.
First person of color to hold statewide elected office in West Virginia history
West Virginia is one of those 10 states that have never elected a single person of color to a non-judicial statewide office for their entire history. Claytor, a black woman, would break that dismal streak in West Virginia if she's elected as the state auditor.
First person of color to hold statewide elected office in Missouri history
Missouri is yet another state that has never elected a person of color to non-judicial statewide office in its entire history. (The others: Alabama, Arkansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Mississippi.) Smith, a black woman, is vying to break that barrier by winning Missouri’s election for Secretary of State.
First openly gay person elected to Washington statewide office
Podlodowski nearly surpassed incumbent Kim Wyman in the Democratic primary in August. In her campaign announcement, she attacked Wyman for low voter turnout in off-year elections.
Voters in Henderson, Nevada will have the chance to vote for the country’s first entirely female, Democratic ticket consisting of: Hillary Clinton (president), Catherine Cortez Masto (Senate), Jacky Rosen (House of Representatives), Joyce Woodhouse (state senate) and Lesley Cohen (state assembly).
First openly bisexual woman to be elected as governor
While Brown, a Democrat, is already serving as Oregon’s governor, she has come out as bisexual since first entering her role and is now running for election as openly queer—a first for American governors.
First Muslim-American in the Georgia General Assembly
Radjabov, 32, faces an uphill battle in the majority-Republican District 108. Though he’s realistic about what he’ll be able to accomplish in a largely conservative Georgia legislature, he told NPR Atlanta he’s keen on increasing transparency for lawmakers.
First openly gay member of South Carolina’s State Legislature
Elliott, a Republican, appeared to have a clear path to victory after he handily defeated his primary opponent and Democrats chose not to run anyone against him in the general election. But a local engineer has waged a write-in campaign because he wants to give voters a different choice now “that they know more about who Jason Elliott is.” Hmm—what could that possibly mean?
First openly lesbian member of the Florida House of Representatives
Tuura secured an endorsement from some guy named Barack Obama, and says her campaign for the State legislature is a personal one. “My friends can still be fired for being gay,” Tuura told the West Orlando News. “My marriage can be undermined by our State legislature. For me it’s personal, and I will go to Tallahassee to fight for my community and for equal rights and protections under the law.”
First Latinx member of the Georgia House of Representatives
Lopez effectively locked down this race when she won the Democratic primary in June; she faces no Republican challenger in Georgia’s District 99. “As State Representative, I want to showcase the hard working residents of District 99 who are pursuing the American Dream, providing a better quality of life for their children and contributing to the community they live in," Lopez wrote on her website.
First Somali-American state legislator
Once a young refugee who fled war-torn Somalia for neighboring Kenya—where her family was forced to choose between homelessness and the prospect of having to fend for themselves in a refugee camp— Ilhan Omar cut her political teeth as a campaign manager in a city council race. That first campaign eventually led to Omar running as a Democrat for a seat of her own, a decision that led to her dealing with sexism, violence, and intimidation from some of her opponents.
This one explains itself.