Election 2021: Candidates of color made history

Michelle Wu has been elected mayor of Boston, Aftab Pureval has been elected mayor of Cincinnati, and Eric Adams has been elected mayor of New York.
Josh Reynolds, John Minchillo and Frank Franklin II/AP

People of color made history on election night in 2021, bringing diversity to leadership roles in some of America’s biggest cities, and in some states as well.

Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and Dearborn, Mich., were among the places that a majority of voters embraced minority candidates.

Michelle Wu is the first woman and person of color to be elected Boston’s mayor

The city councilor and daughter of Taiwanese immigrants broke Boston’s 199-year streak of white, male city leaders. She defeated fellow Democratic City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, a self-described first-generation Arab-Polish American.

Pittsburgh elects Ed Gainey, the city’s first Black mayor ever

The western Pennsylvania metropolis, which is 23% Black, largely favored the Democrat Gainey over Republican challenger Tony Moreno. Gainey was born and raised by a single mother in Pittsburgh, where he lived in public housing and later found a career in politics. “We know how people have talked about Pittsburgh, how siloed it is, how segregated it is,” Gainey told supporters on Tuesday, according to member station WESA. “But today, you changed that.”

Cincinnati elects Aftab Pureval, its first Asian American mayor

The 39-year-old Democrat started his political career six years ago as an outsider, member station WVXU reports, and last night he defeated 82-year-old opponent David Mann, “a longtime pillar of Cincinnati City Hall.”

The son of immigrants from India, Pureval earned his law degree and worked for Procter & Gamble before running successfully for Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in 2016.

Eric Adams becomes the second Black man to lead New York City in its history

New Yorkers chose Democrat Eric Adams, a former police department captain, as the city’s second Black mayor, in a landslide win.

Adams, a former state senator who is currently the Brooklyn borough president, takes over from Bill de Blasio, whose second term was mired in the pandemic and economic turbulence including historic job losses, skyrocketing housing prices and rental rates, and extreme income inequality.

Winsome Sears will be the first Black woman to be Virginia’s lieutenant governor

It’s the highest office a woman of color has won so far in Virginia’s history. Sears, a Republican, won a race that highlighted diversity: her Democratic opponent, Hala Ayala, comes from a family with Salvadoran, Irish, Lebanese and North African heritage.

Abdullah Hammoud becomes the first Arab-American and Muslim mayor of Dearborn, Michigan

The Detroit suburb boasts one of the largest Arab communities in the U.S., but that had never been reflected in the city’s highest office. Hammoud, the son of Lebanese immigrants, dedicated his victory speech Tuesday night to “any young girls or boys who have been ridiculed for their faith or ethnicity.” The Democratic state representative defeated his opponent, longtime Michigan politician Gary Woronchak.

Tyrone Garner will be the first Black mayor of Kansas City, Kansas

In his first political race, Garner unseated one-term incumbent David Alvey in the race to lead Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County — which have a unified government.

Garner, like Adams in New York, is a former high-ranking police officer. He retired as deputy chief in June 2019, according to member station KCUR. But unlike Adams, his campaign focused not on getting tough on crime but on improving economic equity and public services, particularly for people in neglected neighborhoods. “I am a forward thinker that wants to be a unifying force to facilitate opportunity, equity and hope,” he told KCUR.


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