Women make history on election night in Minnesota

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The so-called "Year of the Woman" came to fruition during election night with many historic firsts rising to the top of the election results.

Still surprised that no one ran against her, Maria Regan Gonzalez is celebrated being elected the City of Richfield’s new mayor. The two-year city council member is now also the first Latina mayor in Minnesota, which she admits it’s bittersweet.

“To be the first is an honor, but it’s also sad that it took us over 100, 150 years to have a Latina mayor in this state,” said Regan Gonzalez.

Also celebrating Tuesday night was Senator Tina Smith, who acknowledged Minnesota is now one of four states with two female senators and this is the first time Minnesota voters elected two women to represent them in the Senate. For her first 10 months as senator, Smith was appointed. 

“There are now 23 women in the United States Senate, we have a ways to go, but it feels great tonight,” said Senator Smith.

The firsts don’t stop there. Peggy Flanagan becomes Minnesota’s first indigenous woman to hold office as Lieutenant Governor. Angie Craig is the first LGBTQ member of Congress to represent Minnesota along with being the first woman to take over the state’s second congressional district. Getting plenty of national attention, Ilhan Omar celebrates a monumental first as the first Somali-American refugee headed for Congress. 

In addition to national firsts, the Minnesota League of Women Voters points out up until now, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners has always been white, but voters elected two new representatives of color, Angela Conley and Irene Fernando.

“It takes years for candidates to kind of develop the networks and capacity and support,” said Nick Harper of the League of Women Voters in Minnesota. “This has been building for some time.”

While credits range from the #MeToo movement to organizations actively recruiting female candidates, for Regan Gonzalez the new role stems from long-standing values in community leadership. 

“I feel like it’s about time we better reflect who our whole country is,” said Regan Gonzales. “And that women are leading the way and making that happen.”

While more women than ever before will serve in Congress, there is still a long way to go before women reflect the full population of the country. Women make up 52 percent of the electorate, but in Congress still represent less than a quarter of all senators and representatives.