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Latinas emerge victorious in elections a year after Trump's presidential win

On Tuesday, minorities pushed back against a climate of intolerance and racial tension in landmark state elections in Virginia and New Jersey. Here's a rundown of minority winners from around the nation.
9 Nov 2017 – 11:28 AM EST

At a time when intolerance seems to be on the rise, and exactly a year after Donald Trump's presidential election win, minorities won historic victories on Tuesday in elections in several states and cities.

Latinos, women, blacks and the LGBT community are celebrating a series of notable wins for political newcomers.

"As the first Latino president of the Democratic National Committee and proud son of immigrants, I could not be more proud of what we achieved last night," said DNC president Tom Pérez, who is of Dominican descent.

"These victories represent a triumph for American values, for the Latino community, and for the permanent promise of the American Dream. And they send a loud and clear message to Donald Trump: we will not live in fear, we will defend ourselves, and we will win," he added.

High Latino turnout in Virginia

This is how Latino and other minorities voted in Virginia 2017
This is how Latinos, blacks and whites voted in the Virginia gubernatorial election won by Democrat Ralph Northam against Republican Ed Gillespie.
FUENTE: Latino Decisions | UNIVISION

Latinos turned out in record numbers in Virginia, registering a 113 percent leap over the last state elections in 2013, according to María Teresa Kumar founding President and CEO of Voto Latino.

About 6 percent of the voters for governor in Virginia were of Latino origin, according to the Edison Research exit poll for TV networks and the Washington Post. There are 300,000 eligible Latinos in the state, equivalent to 5 percent of the electorate.

"What that tells me is this is personal for them," Kumar said on MSNBC. "They are basically putting a stake in the sand and saying 'stop going after our families. You're being racist and you're jeopardizing our safety in our communities, so we are going to go out and vote.'"

In total, more than 700,000 Hispanics live in Virginia, representing 9 percent of the total population, making them a potentially decisive factor in a state evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Kumar said she criss-crossed the country logging 147,000 miles during the campaign. "Every single Latino community is having the same conversation," she said.

Democrat Ralph Northam's victory in the Virginia Governor's election drew national attention as a potential lesson for 2018. It was seen as a referendum on immigration reform and the future of Hispanic Dreamers after the loser, Republican Ed Gillespie, adopted a harsh tone towards Latinos.

For governor, Democrat Ralph Northam won 67 percent of the Latino vote, compared to 32 percent for Republican Ed Gillespie, according to Edison. Clinton won the Latino vote, taking 65 percent versus Trump's 30 percent.

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A Latino Decisions poll of minority voters in Virginia on the day before the election found that Northam was winning the Latino vote by 73 percent.

Although each election has its own local factors, the results were widely viewed as a failure for President Donald Trump, and for the far right and immigration hawks.

On Wednesday, Democrats celebrated the triumphs of minority candidates and a bipartisan message of respect and civil discourse, in sharp contrast to Trump's personal attacks and intemperate language.

That flies in the face of Democratic calls made after Trump's 2016 election victory to put less emphasis on the celebration of diversity - so-called identity politics - in order to attract voters drawn by the president's message of populist nationalism.

Here are some of the key results:

Triumph of diversity

Latino milestones:

- The first two Latinas were elected as delegates to the Virginia General Assembly: Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala.

- The first Latina mayors were elected in Santa Barbara, California (Cathy Murillo), and Topeka, Kansas (Michelle de la Isla).

- Janet Díaz became the first Latina elected to the municipal council of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

- Lisa Sánchez was the first Mexican-American to win a seat on the Boise, Idaho City Council.

Milestones for other minorities

- The first Sikh mayor in New Jersey, Ravinder Bhalla, will govern in the city of Hoboken.

- Danica Roem became the first transgender woman to serve as delegate in the Virginia General Assembly. She beat an anti-LGBT candidate who did not recognize her as a woman.

- Seattle, Washington got its first openly lesbian mayor, Jenny Durkan. She will govern a municipal council of nine members, of which six are women.

- Four Somali-Americans won races for public office in local elections in Minnesota and Washington state.

Other Latino winners

- Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda were re-elected to the city council in Seattle, Washington.

- Crystal Murillo, only 23, won a seat in the city government of Aurora, Colorado, ousting a 79-year-old candidate seeking re-election.

- Andy Vargas, only 24, won a seat in the Massachusetts Legislature.

- Alfonso López won re-election for his seat in the Virginia Assembly.

- Francisco Moya, Diana Ayala and Carolina Rivera will be new Latino members of the New York City government.

- Deborah Gonzalez won a seat in the Georgia legislature, turning around a red district that Trump won by 3 points in 2016.

- Jason Estévez won a seat on the Atlanta school board.

- Francis Suarez will be the new mayor of Miami and Carlos Hernandez won reelection in Hialeah.

Republican frustration

After her defeat by Asian-American Kathy Tran on Tuesday, the Republican Latina candidate to the Virginia Assembly, Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, called on her party to accept the diverse and changing reality of the country. Mancheno-Smoak was defeated in District 42.

Mancheno-Smaoks' appeal echoed reform proposals within the Republican Party made after the 2012 elections, led by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and others. But that movement appeared to have been drowned out by Trump's victory.

"Republicans should open the conversation," said Mancheno-Smoak, who got 38 percent of the vote in a district in northern Virginia. "Many times the Republican Party does not make itself understood with the minority communities where many are receptive to their message of God and freedom."

Defeat for the Trump model

Tuesday's election revealed Republican divisions, especially after the defeat of Gillespie, an establishment moderate who decliend to fully embrace Trump.

Gillespie adopted some of Trump's anti-immigrant playbook, demonizing Latinos as gang members in controversial television ads that were branded as racist.

His defeat is also a failure for Steve Bannon, the leader of the far-right who is trying to recruit radical candidates for the mid-term congressional elections in 2018.

Bannon had predicted that Gillespie would win after he drew closer to Trump, but after Tuesday's defeat he wasn't prepared to recognize his mistake, instead blaming Gillespie for not going far enough in his adoption of Trumpism.

Bannon's website, Breitbart News, titled its election night story: "Establishment Republican Gillespie rejected."

Trump resorted to the same tactic. Before the election he applauded Gillespie, but on Tuesday night he tweeted that Gillespie "did not embrace me or what I stand for."

Additional reporting by David Adams

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