Ethnic Media Services
On Tuesday night Ruwa Romman became Georgia’s first-ever Muslim woman elected to the state legislature and the state’s first-ever Palestinian American elected to public office. Her win capped a stronger than expected midterm showing for Democrats nationally that defied polling.
The burning question on pundits’ minds now is, how did they do it.
“We spoke with white conservative men who said they could not vote Republican because of concerns for women’s rights,” said Romman, whose team spent the past 10 months canvassing her newly drawn and largely suburban Georgia district. “This is something polls have not fully captured.”
According to her tally, Romman’s team knocked on more than 15 thousand doors, sent some 75 thousand text messages and made 9 thousand phone calls in the newly drawn 97th district outside metro Atlanta. And the message she got from voters was resoundingly clear.
“We heard from voters who said, ‘I want to vote for you because I know you will protect me,’” Romman explained during a press briefing the morning after her election win. She added that Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp — who just won reelection, defeating his Democratic challenger, Stacey Abrams — has “not ruled out voting to ban contraceptives. People are very worried about that here.”
Abortion, inflation, democracy; it was all on the ballot in an election many saw in existential terms. And while predictions of a Republican rout began to spike in the waning days of the season, Democrats saw the best results for an incumbent president in more than two decades.
Romman beat her Republican opponent by 15 points in what she described as a hard-fought race that included anti-Muslim attacks from the opposing side.
She spoke during a press briefing organized by the national non-profit Emerge, which recruits and trains women seeking to run for Democratic office. Emerge President A’Shanti Gholar chalked Democratic fortunes up to what she called the “new American majority,” including young people, people of color and the LGBTQ community.
“141 women of color, 62 women under 45, and 21 LGBTQ Emerge alums won races last night,” Gholar noted, adding her organization fielded more than 650 candidates nationwide this election cycle. “This points to the continued rise of the new American majority,” she said.
Exit polling from the Associated Press shows Democrats with a solid lead over Republicans among voters of color, though Republicans did see continued gains among Latinos and a strong showing among Native Americans. Democrats are also heavily favored among younger voters.
“I especially want to thank the young people of this nation… who voted in record numbers,” said President Biden in a briefing with reporters Wednesday. He called the election outcome a “good day for democracy.”
For speakers on the call, despite inflationary woes and an unpopular president, the issue of abortion and reproductive rights remained front and center on many voters’ minds. “You come for someone’s rights and there will be consequences,” said Gholar, who described the expected “red tsunami” as more of a “drop in the bucket.”
Gholar also echoed Romman, saying the polls that predicted a Republican onslaught failed to capture the “transformation” happening across the electorate, and that too often polls play a decisive role in channeling party dollars to favored candidates.
“Polling is linked to spending, and we must break that pattern,” she said. “We need a new system to understand the new American majority.”
Candidates of color fared well in other races as well, including in Texas, which is set to send its first two Muslim representatives to the state capital, and in Minnesota, where Black, Hmong and Latina women won seats in their state’s legislature.
In Maryland, Aruna Miller, who is of Indian descent, became that state’s first-ever South Asian Lt. Governor. “It is a real marker for the community and a continued reflection of the power of women to take leadership,” Shekar Narasimhan, founder and chairman of the AAPI Victory Fund, told India Currents.
And in Connecticut, Stephanie Thomas is set to become the first African American woman in the history of New England to be elected secretary of state.
“This is also the first time that two black people will serve at the same time in our executive branch,” she noted, referring to Erick Russel, who won his race for state treasurer. Russel is the first openly gay African American to win statewide office anywhere in the US.
“People were angry for what was happening with women, and they went for candidates who would protect those rights,” Gholar stressed.
She also emphasized the importance of candidate quality.
“Between Dobbs, promoting election deniers and attacking the safety net, Republicans did not help themselves,” she said. “Democrats gave voters a strong group of candidates. That’s why voters showed up.”