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Progressive Victories You May Have Missed on Election Night

Women of color with progressive agendas like rent control and noncooperation with ICE won in unlikely places.

In Maine, Safiya Khalid became the first Somali-American elected to the Lewiston City Council, winning with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

There were a number of headline-grabbing victories in the November 5 election — from a Democrat winning the Kentucky governor’s race to Virginia voting in a Democratic state government trifecta by flipping both the House of Delegates and the State Senate blue. But there was also a series of smaller progressive victories you might not have heard of Tuesday night, from Maine to Missouri, and Indiana to San Francisco.

Tuesday brought wins for the progressive political party, Working Families Party (WFP). One of those wins was the triumph of WFP-endorsed candidate Kendra Brooks, who declared victory over an incumbent Republican to cinch one of the two at-large seats on the Philadelphia City Council. The at-large seats, which are reserved for candidates from minority political parties, are seats the GOP has held for 50 years. Brooks, an activist who fought against the conversion of her neighborhood school into a charter school and helped found the Our City Our Schools Coalition, ran on a platform of rent control, noncooperation with ICE, decarceration and police oversight, and protections for residents in gentrifying neighborhoods.

In Maine, Safiya Khalid became the first Somali-American elected to the Lewiston city council, winning with nearly 70 percent of the vote. The 23-year-old, who was inspired to run due to anti-immigrant rhetoric from Trump and former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, faced harassment from online trolls, and even had her address posted online prior to the election, but noted that, in the end, “community organizers beat internet trolls.” Khalid ran on an expansion of affordable housing and regular inspections of rental units for safety.

There were other historic firsts throughout Tuesday evening. In Minnesota, Nadia Mohamed became the first Muslim and first Somali elected to the St. Louis Park City Council, winning with 63 percent of the first-choice votes. Mohamed lives in affordable housing and wants to expand its availability for low-income people. In Plymouth, North Carolina, former Ward 3 Plymouth Councilman Shawn Hawkins became the new mayor, defeating Brian Roth, who held the mayorship for 19 years. Hawkins ran on establishing a “fair and open decision-making process” to take the place of the existing executive closed sessions of the council. Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, noted in a Twitter thread that prior to Tuesday, the majority-Black town of Plymouth “never had a Black mayor” or a majority-Black council. And thanks to the election of public defender Ricardo Arroyo, the Boston City Council is now majority women and people of color. Michelle Wu, who has served on the city council for six years and was re-elected Tuesday, has proposed making Boston’s public transportation free and had a public fight with Airbnb after she pushed for more regulations for short-term rentals.

In one of the marquee Tuesday races, Democrat Andy Beshear defeated Republican Matt Bevin in the race for Kentucky governor — and some 140,000 people could be re-enfranchised as a result. Beshear has promised to use an executive order to restore voting rights to all Kentucky residents who’ve completed their sentences for nonviolent felony convictions. Back in 2016, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe went further than this: He issued an executive order to restore voting rights for all people once their sentences were completed. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that restoring voting rights had to be an individualized process; so McAuliffe went individual by individual, restoring rights to 168,000 Virginians. But three incumbent Virginia prosecutors legally challenged McAuliffe’s voting rights registration — and all of them are now out of office. Republican Robert Tracci lost the prosecutor’s race in Virginia’s Albemarle County to public defender Jim Hingeley. Hingeley pledged during his campaign not to seek cash bail, and wrote that “family separation is not just an ICE policy” — it is the policy of mass incarceration, too.

The two other Virginia prosecutors that sued McAuliffe over rights restoration were Democrats: Theo Stamos (of Arlington County) and Raymond Morrogh (of Fairfax County). Both lost in the June Democratic primaries. Stamos lost the primary to Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, an Innocence Project lawyer, who ran unopposed on Tuesday. Dehghani-Tafti has vowed to end cash bail, not prosecute “simple possession of marijuana,” and establish an independent review mechanism for use of force by the police. And Morrogh lost the primary in June to Steve Descano, who ran on ending cash bail, eliminating the death penalty, and enforcing noncooperation with ICE. Descano defeated a subsequent Republican opponent on Tuesday.

Further north in Chester County, Pennsylvania, after the retirement of Sheriff Bunny Welsh — an early Trump supporter who supported his anti-immigrant policies by attending his national meeting with sheriffs about immigration enforcement — Democrat Fredda Maddox defeated the Republican candidate Jim Fitzgerald. On the West Coast, Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s deputy public defender ran for District Attorney on a decarceral platform. That race remains too close to call.

In Virginia, House Delegate Lee Carter, the only socialist in the Virginia House of Delegates, who’s fought to repeal Virginia’s anti-union “right-to-work” laws, won re-election with over 53 percent of the vote. Danica Roem of Virginia’s 13th district became the first out transgender person to win re-election in a state legislature, garnering 56 percent of the vote.

In Mike Pence’s hometown of Columbus, Indiana, Democrat Jerone Wood defeated the Republican incumbent Dascal Bunch by a single vote, giving the Columbus City Council a 4-3 Democratic majority for the first time since 1983 (though a recount is expected).

Rasheen Aldridge Jr, who was the “very first #FightFor15 worker to go on strike in St. Louis” as an employee of Jimmy John’s, ran unopposed for the Missouri State Assembly’s 78th District. Aldrige was previously appointed, at 20 years old, to the 16-member Ferguson Commission created to address social and economic conditions following the police killing of Michael Brown, and was elected in 2016 to serve as St. Louis’s 5th Ward Committeeman.

Finally, a number of significant progressive ballot initiative victories were notched on Tuesday.

New York City approved ranked choice voting, and gave the Civilian Complaint Review Board the power to investigate and potentially prosecute police officers who lie during misconduct investigations.

In Manchester, New Hampshire, voters approved a ballot measure to add a high school student from each local high school to the school board, albeit as a nonvoting member.

And in Utah, a shameful referendum that would effectively try to find ways to change the form of government for the first ever Navajo-majority commission looks likely to fail, though votes are still being counted.

From flipping entire state legislatures blue, to placing an increasing number of young women of color who are pushing progressive policies into elected positions, to accomplishing a total routing of anti-re-enfranchisement candidates in Virginia, voters ensured that Tuesday’s results saw progressive wins even in the least likely of places.

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