LAUREN UNDERWOOD (Illinois Democrat)
Democrat Lauren Underwood, a 32-year-old African-American nurse from suburban Chicago, defeated four-term Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren Tuesday to become the first woman and first minority to represent a traditionally GOP-leaning Illinois congressional district.
In her first bid for public office, Underwood topped Hultgren in a district once held by GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
Underwood worked in President Barack Obama’s administration, helping implement the Affordable Care Act and working on the federal response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. She said she left that job and returned to Illinois after Donald Trump became president because it was clear he wanted to end or reverse much of the work she’d been doing.
Like many other Democrats, Underwood made health care the centerpiece of her campaign, saying she decided to get in the race after Hultgren voted for GOP legislation that would have made coverage of pre-existing conditions more expensive. She spoke often about the importance of uch coverage, saying she had seen it firsthand as both a nurse and a person with a heart condition.
Her bid drew national attention, including a Time magazine cover and a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor. Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned with her last week.
ANTONIO DELGADO (New York Democrat)
Antonio Delgado went from Rhodes Scholar to rap artist to corporate lawyer before launching a career in politics.
Inspired by a surge of liberal Democratic activism following President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Delgado moved last year from the New York City suburbs to Rhinebeck in New York’s Hudson Valley, home region of his wife, and began a run against Republican Rep. John Faso.
Delgado, 41, emerged from working-class roots in Schenectady, New York, to study at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earn a law degree from Harvard University. He then pivoted to a brief hip-hop career in Los Angeles, where he rapped under the name “AD the Voice” about income inequality, war and criminal justice reform.
Though Delgado went on to become a litigator for an international law firm representing Fortune 500 companies, Republicans seized on his brief rap career to portray Delgado, who is black, as unfit for office. They claimed his lyrics denigrated police, women and American values. Delgado’s supporters called it race-baiting.
Delgado campaigned on a platform of expanding Medicare, job creation and eliminating tax loopholes for the rich. He depicted Faso, who joined Congress last year, as beholden to corporate interests.
AYANNA PRESSLEY (Massachusetts Democrat)
Ayanna Pressley is the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts. The 44-year-old Democrat sailed through Tuesday’s general election unopposed, two months after a surprise unseating of 10-term Rep. Michael Capuano in the state primary, an upset victory that drew comparisons to that of Ocasio-Cortez.
Her Boston-area district, once represented by John F. Kennedy, is now the first in Massachusetts where minorities make up a majority of the voting population.
In 2009, Pressley was the first African-American elected to the Boston City Council. Before that, she worked as an aide to Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry.
Ideologically, Pressley was like the candidate she defeated in the primary: liberal, a self-described progressive. But the white, middle-aged incumbent didn’t look like many voters in his district, even though Pressley herself had bristled at the notion that race was a defining issue in the contest.
But Pressley also made clear the importance of diversity in the nation’s halls of power.
“I do think that our democracy is strengthened by an engagement of new and different voices,” she told college newspaper editors in Boston in October.