Nine African-Americans were elected to Congress during this year’s historic midterms, increasing the ranks of the Congressional Black Caucus to 55 members, reportedly a new record.
The caucus also may have five new committee chairs in the House of Representatives, with fiery Maxine Waters of California expected to lead the powerful Financial Services Committee; Bobby Scott of Virginia to chair Education and the Workforce, Maryland’s Elijah Cummings to head Government Oversight; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Homeland Security; and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas to chair the committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Lauren Victoria Burke, a venerable political reporter for the Black Press, said that control of the gavel will give the CBC the power to investigate, hire at least 30 new staff members each and control the House’s policy agenda.
As noted in an Essence magazine essay, with their renewed status, the Democrats will most assuredly engage in investigations, use their subpoena power and very well pursue impeachment of the president if they gain an opening, possibly through the ongoing Mueller investigation.
African Americans joining the 116th Congress also plan to vigorously challenge Trump’s agenda. This group — a number of whom are young history makers and women — represent the pool of diverse candidates who beat establishment GOP politicians.
Former Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley, 44, became the first African-American Congresswoman in the state of Massachusetts, winning in the state’s 7th District — the only one comprised of primarily minorities.
Pressley paved her way to Congress with her Democratic primary victory over 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano, who has backed prominent Black politicians such as civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Deval Patrick, Massachusetts’ first Black governor.
Schoolteacher Jahana Hayes, 45, emerged victorious in her campaign to become the first African-American woman to represent Connecticut, defeating Republican Manny Santos in the state’s hotly contested 5th District.
One of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, Ilhan Omar, 35, will now assume the Minnesota seat previously held by Keith Ellison, the deputy Democratic National Committee Chair, who was elected the state’s Attorney General. Running on a platform that includes Medicare-for-all and free tuition, she handily won the seat.
Rashida Tlaib was the other Muslim women who won in her bid for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District seat.
A former adviser to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and registered nurse who never held office, Lauren Underwood scored an upset victory by defeating four-term Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren to win a seat in Congress from Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. Gaining donors outside the state, she also beat Hultgren in raising campaign funds: $4 million to $2 million.
After months of being attacked on his past career as a rapper, Antonio Delgado, 41, a Harvard-trained attorney and Rhodes scholar, campaigned in New York’s 19th District on expanding health care to win against GOP incumbent John Faso, who supported the Republican plan that discarded provisions for pre-existing conditions.
Former NFL player and civil rights attorney Colin Allred, 35, changed Texas’s 32nd District from blue to red by giving the Dems a major victory in a battleground state: Unseating GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, a 22-year congressional veteran and powerful chairman of the House Rules Committee.
Democrat Joe Neguse, an attorney and civic leader of Eritrean heritage, became the first Black congressman from Colorado, when he defeated GOP challenger Peter Yu to represent the 2nd District that includes Boulder and Fort Collins.
He won the seat vacated by Democrat Jared Polis, who was elected the first openly gay man to become governor in the nation.
In the race for Nevada’s 4th District, Steve Horsford, 45, clinched his return engagement to Congress beating Republican Cresent Hardy. Horsford previously served as the district’s congressman from 2013-2015, having lost his bid for a second term in 2014 and declined to run in 2016.
And the most visible winner, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old Bronx native and waitress, is the first-time candidate who defeated Democrat Joe Crowley in the first primary challenge in 14 years. She is now the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress.
“There’s a lot to be done across the board,” said South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, who had expressed interest in challenging Nancy Pelosi for House speaker before announcing this week he again plans to run for majority whip.
“I do plan to do what is necessary to remain at the leadership table,” he said.