Posted on November 10, 2020

First- and Second-Generation Americans Score Historic Wins in Key Races Across the Nation

Rupa Shenoy, The World, November 5, 2020

In the first election after President Donald Trump was elected — the 2018 midterms — there was an unprecedented wave of first- and second-generation Americans running for office.

That continued in the 2020 elections this week, resulting in immigrants and children of immigrants winning key positions across the country, and helping flip whole states.

Samba Baldeh, an immigrant from The Gambia, will represent a mostly white area in the Wisconsin Legislature as its first Muslim member. Naquetta Ricks, a refugee from Liberia, is joining the Colorado House. Kesha Ram, the daughter of an Indian immigrant father and Jewish American mother, is now the first woman of color in the Vermont Senate. Iman Jodeh, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and refugees, is now Colorado’s first Muslim lawmaker.


Jodeh and most other first- and second-generation candidates ran as Democrats. Immigrants and their allies were also behind a historic political shift in Arizona, including the election of Mexican American paramedic Melody Hernandez, who won a seat in the Arizona House.


Many of the immigrants and children of immigrants who ran for office this year had the same stated goals: to defend democracy, diversity and inclusiveness. In Georgia, Chinese American anesthesiologist Michelle Au was treating COVID-19 patients, listening to the president call it the “China virus,” and campaigning for a seat in the state Senate, which she won this week.

“It is incredibly exciting to be in Georgia in this moment because you really feel that you are living through this inflection point in American politics,” Au said.

These first- and second-generation Americans will play an important role in helping people in the US visualize themselves as part of a more integrated country, said Sayu Bhojwani, founder of New American Leaders, a group that trains candidates.

“They’re redefining and helping us reimagine what an American leader looks like. {snip}” she said.