WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans who voted in record numbers are getting their first sense of the House and Senate candidates they elected in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
In their victory speeches and statements, the winners made references to historic gains by female candidates and the divisive political climate that has defined two years of President Donald Trump’s White House and the Republican-controlled Congress.
Trump was a major factor in the election — and he was mentioned by name in some of the victory speeches. Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to Trump, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate. About a quarter of the electorate said they voted to express support for Trump, according to the national survey.
Here’s a look at what the former candidates had to say as lawmakers-elect:
“Mr. President, here we come,” Donna Shalala, D-Fla., said in her victory speech after defeating Republican Maria Elvira Salazar for an open seat near Miami. Shalala, 77, is a former health secretary and will flip the 27th District seat from Republican to Democratic. “Some people would like to divide us,” she said. “We just can’t let that happen, because it’s un-American.”
“Now you don’t have to worry if you call me congressman, or congresswoman, or Congress lady,” said Republican Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee. “Now, senator will do.”
Blackburn defeated Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen to become the state’s first female senator. She’ll succeed GOP Sen. Bob Corker, who is retiring, and she’ll add to the Senate Republican ranks of women at a time when the party faced criticism for its heavily male ranks.
“When it comes to women of color candidates, folks don’t just talk about a glass ceiling, what they describe is a concrete one. But you know what breaks through concrete? Seismic shifts,” Ayanna Pressley said after she was elected to Congress in Massachusetts. She was one of several black women elected Tuesday.
She stunned the political establishment in September, defeating a 10-term incumbent in the Democratic primary, and ran unopposed in the general.
Lauren Underwood quoted the first black woman elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm of New York, as she was elected in Illinois. “I aspire to be a bold representative for this community, someone who is wholly responsive and accountable to her constituents ‘unbought and unbossed,'” Underwood said.
“We sent a message that we want a better nation,” Democratic Rep.-elect Jennifer Wexton told her supporters in suburban Washington. “We demand a better nation, a nation where we treat each other with dignity and respect.”
Wexton defeated GOP incumbent Barbara Comstock, a longtime Republican loyalist, for the seat representing the Washington suburbs.
“There is nothing inherently noble about protecting a status quo that does not serve the needs of working-class Americans,” said Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of a handful of congressional candidates this year who identified as democratic socialists.
She defeated a little-known Republican opponent Tuesday in a congressional district representing part of New York City and, at 29, is the youngest woman elected to Congress.