Next Congress expected to have record diversity

The next session of Congress is shaping up to be the most diverse in history with a record number of women and LGBTQ people, as well as a high number of racial minorities. 

While a number of races have yet to be called, it’s already becoming clear the new Congress, which starts in January, will have the most women ever, surpassing the previous record set in 2019. Part of that stems from a record number of newly elected Republican women, whose ranks were diminished after the 2018 midterm elections. 

There will be diversity beyond gender and race, too: Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) will become the youngest member of Congress and the first lawmaker born in the 1990s. 

Most of the diversity in both the House and Senate comes from Democrats, but Republicans will be adding more racial minorities and women to their ranks in 2021 as well.

While the diversity in Congress is reaching record numbers, white men still dominate the institution. The record of at least 134 women makes up only about a quarter of the membership of Congress.

Here’s a look at the historic milestones coming up in the new Congress. 


Although the overall number of women of color in Congress is currently expected to remain about the same, the elections of several incoming female lawmakers marked major milestones. 

Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who defeated a longtime incumbent in a Democratic primary this year, will be the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress. 

Democratic Rep.-elect Marilyn Strickland will become the first Black member of Congress from Washington state and is the first Korean American woman elected to Congress. 

New Mexico, meanwhile, became the first state to elect all women of color as its House delegation. 

Republicans currently only have 13 women in their House ranks, but that is set to nearly double and help reach an all-time record of GOP female membership of 32 total across both chambers. Six of the eight House seats flipped by the GOP so far all featured female candidates. 

Rep.-elect Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) is the first Iranian American elected to Congress, while Rep.-elect Yvette Herrell (N.M.) will be the first Republican Native American woman in Congress. House Republicans currently only have one Hispanic woman among their voting members, but they’ll have at least one more with Rep.-elect Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.). 

There are still other female candidates in uncalled races in California, Iowa, New York and Texas.

House Republicans do not have any voting members who are Asian American in the current session of Congress. That could change if California Republicans Young Kim and Michelle Steel unseat Democratic incumbents in their respective races. If elected, both would be among the first Korean American women to serve in Congress. 

Sen.-elect Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) was the only non-incumbent female candidate to win a Senate race. It’s possible the number of women in the upper chamber could change depending on who replaces Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) when she becomes vice president or if Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) loses a runoff election.

LGBTQ members 

New York Democratic Reps.-elect Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres will become the first two gay Black and Afro-Latino members of Congress, respectively.

The elections of Jones and Torres mean that the number of members of Congress identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual will be both the largest and most racially diverse ever. 

The number of LGBTQ members is expected to grow from nine to 11 across both chambers. All of the current and future members are Democrats, with seven incumbent House lawmakers as well as Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.).  

African Americans  

The number of African Americans in Congress is expected to build upon the record reached in 2019 of 55 members, though the exact number in the next Congress may change depending on the outcome of some uncalled races.

A record number of Black women — at least 24, all Democrats — are slated to take office in the House, up from the previous record of 22 in 2019. 

Two of those women, Bush and Strickland, became the first Black women in their respective states to win election to Congress. And in Georgia, Rep.-elect Nikema Williams (D) will fill the vacancy left by the late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D). 

Republicans currently only have two Black members across the House and Senate. The only incumbent Black House Republican, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), is retiring. But House Republicans will have at least one Black member in their ranks, Rep.-elect Byron Donalds (Fla.), and potentially another if Burgess Owens defeats Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) in a close race that hasn’t yet been called. 

And in New York, first-term Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado’s race in a district that flipped from red to blue in 2018 hasn’t yet been called either.

Native Americans

With Herrell’s victory in New Mexico, there will be a record number of Native Americans in Congress next year. 

The two other Republicans who identify as Native American, Oklahoma Reps. Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin, both won reelection, as did Democratic Reps. Deb Haaland (N.M.) and Sharice Davids (Kan.). 

In addition, Rep.-elect Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii), who will be replacing outgoing Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, is the second Native Hawaiian to be elected to Congress.  

Youngest member of Congress 

The Constitution requires that members of the House be at least 25 years old. Cawthorn, born in 1995, only just reaches that minimum requirement. 

The last time that a 25-year-old became a House member was back in 1975 with the swearing-in of then-Rep. Thomas Downey (D-N.Y.), according to historical records. 

The current youngest member of Congress is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who is now 31 after first taking office at the age of 29. 

The average age among members of Congress, meanwhile, is 58 among House members and 63 among senators. 

Like Ocasio-Cortez, Cawthorn has made clear that he isn’t shy about being provocative. Moments after his race was called, Cawthorn offered a three-word tweet: “Cry more, lib.” 

Tags 2020 election Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Antonio Delgado Cynthia Lummis David Schweikert Deb Haaland John Lewis Kelly Loeffler Markwayne Mullin Sharice Davids Tammy Baldwin Tom Cole Tulsi Gabbard Will Hurd
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