On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

10 Minnesota political firsts from the midterms

Share story

Ilhan Omar, Peggy Flanagan and Angie Craig
Tuesday's midterm elections celebrated a number of historic firsts in state and national politics.
Richard Marshall, Lacey Young and Ellen Schmidt for MPR News

Tuesday's midterm elections generated a surprising number of Minnesota firsts — changes likely to be remembered as milestones in the state's political history. 

From statewide offices to city council elections, here's a look at who made it more than a typical Election Day.

1) Ilhan Omar: The nation's first Somali-American member of Congress

State Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, is headed for Washington, D.C. after winning Minnesota's 5th Congressional District. She'll be the first Somali-American member of Congress and one of two Muslim women lawmakers when she's sworn in next year. Once a refugee, she'll take the seat of Rep. Keith Ellison, who was elected Tuesday to be Minnesota attorney general. 

2) Peggy Flanagan: Nation's first Native American woman elected lieutenant governor

Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, will become the country's first Native American woman lieutenant governor when she takes office in January. 

Flanagan was among a record high number of Native Americans running for office in the 2018 midterm elections. Two female Native American Democrats, Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland were elected to Congress respectively in Kansas and New Mexico.

3) Angie Craig: First openly LGBTQ member of Congress from Minnesota

Angie Craig won Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District race, beating Republican incumbent Rep. Jason Lewis. She is the first openly LGBTQ person from the state elected to Congress.  

She joins an LGBTQ wave this year in the House, which will add four gay, lesbian and bisexual members next session, bringing the total number of LGBTQ members to eight.

4) Minnesota sends five new members to Congress

Minnesota will have three new Democrats and two new Republicans in the next Congress. It's the highest number of newbies since 1934, when six of the eight districts had new representatives.

5) David Hutchinson: First openly gay sheriff in the Midwest

In Hennepin County, David Hutchinson will take the sheriff's office as the first openly gay sheriff in the Midwest.

Hutchinson, who has served with the Metro Transit police for 12 years, narrowly defeated incumbent Rich Stanek by about 2,300 votes, less than half a percentage point. 

6) First women-of-color commissioners in Hennepin County

Women of color were elected for the first time to the Hennepin County Board. Angela Conley, an African-American, will serve as a commissioner in the county's fourth district. Irene Fernando, who is of Filipino heritage will served the board's second district. Both defeated their opponents on Tuesday by large margins.

7) Two Liberians elected in municipal elections

Two immigrants from Liberia made history in municipal elections Tuesday. Wynfred Russel won a Brooklyn Park City Council seat.  Mike Elliott was elected mayor of Brooklyn Center. 

The last time a Liberian-American was elected in Minnesota was 2008 when Paye Flomo became mayor of Hampton in Dakota County. According to the International Institute of Minnesota, about 35,000 Liberians are living in the state with much of the population concentrated in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

8) Maria Regan Gonzalez: Minnesota's first Latina mayor

Richfield's next mayor, Maria Regan Gonzales, will be the first Latina mayor in Minnesota's history. She ran unopposed in the race and received more than 96 percent of the total votes cast in the midterm election. Regan Gonzales has served as a Richfield City Council member, representing east Richfield since 2016.

9) Kim Norton: Rochester's first woman mayor

Kim Norton soundly beat Charlie O'Connell to become mayor of Rochester, Minn. She'll be the city's first female mayor. Norton previously represented the northern portion of Rochester in the state House from 2007 to 2017.

10) Johnathan Judd: Moorhead's first African-American mayor

Moorhead, Minn., will see its first African-American mayor. Johnathan Judd moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area from the South as a teenager and currently works as a criminal defense attorney in the city. Judd won 51 percent of the votes cast, defeating opponent Brenda Elmer.

Correction (Nov. 7, 2018): A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the significance of Flanagan's appointment. The story has been updated.