Lights in the Darkness: Celebrating Down-Ballot Progressive Victories

Victories like that of Muslim-American Ilhan Omar in Minnesota "are a rejection of Trump's strategy of divide and conquer," said grassroots social justice group People's Action. (Photo: Ilhan Omar/Facebook)

Lights in the Darkness: Celebrating Down-Ballot Progressive Victories

From Washington state to Arizona to Vermont, there were silver linings nationwide

Even for voters devastated by Tuesday's election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, there were glimmers of hope around the country--down-ballot wins on the local and national level that speak to the creation of a progressive farm team nationwide.

From Pramila Jayapal in Washington state to Ilhan Omar in Minnesota to Martin Quezada in Arizona, a number of candidates endorsed by the Bernie Sanders campaign offshoot Our Revolution and grassroots social justice group People's Action won their respective races for Congress or state legislatures.

"These victories are a rejection of Trump's strategy of divide and conquer, of pitting working people against each other across lines of race, class, and gender."
--LeeAnn Hall and George Goehl, People's Action

Jayapal, for her part, became the first Indian-American woman elected to Congress when she beat rival Brady Walkinshaw in Washington's liberal 7th congressional district. Speaking to supporters Tuesday night in Seattle before the presidential race was called, "Jayapal said the result of her race meant the 7th district could be 'a light in the darkness' if Donald Trump were to emerge triumphant," the Seattle Timesreported.

"If our worst fears are realized, we will be on the defense as of tomorrow," she said. "We will have to fight for social justice as never before."

Omar, meanwhile, became the nation's first Somali-American state legislator, winning a seat representing Minneapolis in the Minnesota House. Minnesota Public Radio reported:

While her election wasn't a surprise in a reliably Democratic district--she was elected by almost 80 percent of the vote there--it carried huge symbolic importance in Minnesota, home to the nation's largest Somali immigrant population. It came just days after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ripped Somali immigration as a threat to Minnesota.

"Minneapolis said no tonight, said no to hatred, said no to the narrative of making America hate again," said Habon Abdulle, executive director of the nonprofit Women Organizing Woman, where Omar is director of policy. "Minneapolis, and [the] 60B district particularly, you said Muslim women have space in the governing body of our state. Thank you."

Quezada--who "cruised to victory over Republican Crystal Nuttle" to represent Phoenix's West Valley in the state Senate, according to the Arizona Capitol Times--described his win on Twitter as "bittersweet."

Advocates celebrated other progressive victories on social media:

Referring to both individual candidates as well as minimum wage state ballot measures, People's Action co-directors LeeAnn Hall and George Goehl said: "These victories are a rejection of Trump's strategy of divide and conquer, of pitting working people against each other across lines of race, class, and gender."

Still, there were painful progressive losses, too, including those of Zephyr Teachout, who lost her congressional race in New York, and Russ Feingold, who failed to beat GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.

Our Revolution has a full breakdown of its wins and losses here.

Tuesday also saw the repudiation of at least two candidates whose terms were marked by the kind of discrimination and injustice that many see as hallmarks of Trump's candidacy and the Republican establishment.

As Quezada and Jane Sanders noted in their tweets, former Phoenix Police Sgt. Paul Penzone defeated longtime Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, a controversial figure who was found in contempt of court in May and again last month for failing to stop his practice of racial profiling and targeting of Hispanic people in "immigration patrols."

CNN political analyst and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, who publicly opposed Trump, called Arpaio's defeat a "silver lining" of Election Day--and she wasn't the only one.

And in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory--who backed the anti-LGBTQ "hate bill" HB2 and supported the state's discriminatory voter ID law--appears to have lost to challenger Roy Cooper, though McCrory has yet to concede.

"Pat McCrory's historic defeat is a beacon of hope for equality," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin and Equality North Carolina executive director Chris Sgro in a joint statement on Tuesday night.

"By electing Roy Cooper their next governor, North Carolinians have sent a powerful message across their state and this country that the days of anti-LGBTQ politicians targeting our community for political gain are over," they said. "While McCrory may have been surprised by the overwhelming opposition in this state and across the country to his discriminatory politics, the same will not be true for lawmakers who are considering doubling down on anti-LGBTQ extremism in the future. This is a wake-up call."

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