Story at a glance
- Two Native American newcomers were elected in New Mexico and Hawaii.
- Democrat Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele will be the second Native Hawaiian to represent the state.
- In New Mexico, Republican Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee nation, won her race in the 2nd Congressional District.
A record-breaking number of Native Americans will serve in the U.S. House of Representatives following an election night that brought many historic firsts for diversity.
The 117th Congress will include six Native American House candidates after four won reelection and two Native American newcomers were elected in New Mexico and Hawaii.
One of the new members is Democrat Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele, who won his race in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District against Republican Joe Akana. He’ll be the second Native Hawaiian to represent Hawaii in Congress since it became a state in 1959, according to Indian Country Today.
“Words cannot express my deep appreciation to everyone who has believed in our campaign, supported us, voted & donated! Our challenging work begins now, and I’ll do everything I can do to bring our state the resources we need to recover and build a resilient Hawai’i,” Kahele said following his victory.
In New Mexico, Republican Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee nation, won her race in the 2nd Congressional District after a rematch with Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small. The former state legislator successfully ousted the first-term Democrat in a rural district where President Trump is popular.
Meanwhile, the first two Native American women to ever be elected to Congress in 2018, Rep. Debra Haaland (D-N.M.) and Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), both held onto their seats. Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and also has Jemez Pueblo heritage. Davids, who is also one of the few openly gay congresswomen, is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
Incumbents Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) also won reelection. Cole is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and Mullin is Cherokee.
The election of both Haaland and Herrell helped New Mexico become the first state to ever elect all women of color to its House delegation.
The milestone comes as the 2020 election saw many historic firsts. Two New York Democrats became the first openly gay Black men to serve in Congress, while Delaware elected the first openly transgender state senator and Missouri elected its first Black congresswoman.
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