4 Women in Tuesday's Primaries Who Could Go On to Make Congress History

Primaries in Missouri, Kansas, and Michigan could send the first Muslim woman, first Black woman, and first Indigenous woman to Congress in November.
August 3, 2018, 8:09pm
Rashida for Congress/Sharice for Congress/Facb

Women, as a group, have already made history this year, running for office in unprecedented numbers and, as of May, winning enough of their primaries to make up 40 percent of all Democratic House nominees.

When voters go to the polls on Tuesday in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington, many of them have the opportunity to help make history thrice over: Voters in Kansas' 3rd congressional district will have the opportunity to cast their ballots for a candidate who could go on to become the first indigenous—and openly gay—congresswoman. In Michigan, two candidates running in the 11th and 13th congressional districts could, in November, become the first Muslim women in Congress. And in Missouri, a former Ferguson activist could defeat a longtime incumbent to become the first Black woman Missouri has ever sent to the Capitol.


Meet them here.

Sharice Davids

Sharice Davids is entrenched in a messy primary battle on the way to becoming the first Native American congresswoman, who also happens to be openly gay. Davids is running in Kansas' 3rd congressional district, where she'll go up against five other candidates, including Brent Welder, who's been endorsed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and fellow congressional hopeful Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ocasio-Cortez has said that Welder more closely aligns with her leftist ideals and is essentially "running the exact same race" that she is.

Davids, however, also comes with her own impressive backing, having earned the official support of EMILY's List, and wants to bring progressive values to a seat currently held by Representative Kevin Yoder, one of the House' most vulnerable Republicans. Such a win would be historic—but Davids wouldn't want the focus to be on her.

"It’s not about me at all," Davids told Hello Giggles last month. "It’s about the way that all of us are standing up and saying we get to shape the narrative of this country as much as anybody else, and we want to do that and we’re going to do that.

Rashida Tlaib

It's possible this cycle that two women from Michigan could be the first Muslim women to ever serve in Congress. One of them, Rashida Tlaib, is running in Michigan's 13th congressional district, the former seat of Representative John Conyers, who resigned in December after being accused of sexual harassment. Since the district is solidly Democratic, a primary win for Tlaib would mean a virtual guarantee of making history in November.


The unexpected opening, however, means Tlaib is running in a crowded field of Democrats all clamoring for the open seat in a race Michigan Radio called "too close to call" on Friday. Tlaib, who's already broken barriers to become the first Muslim woman to serve in Michigan's state legislature, has tried to tip the scales in her favor simply by being tireless. Tlaib has been vocal in denouncing President Donald Trump's travel ban and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold it, but when she's knocking on thousands of doors in her district, religion rarely comes up.

"It's not about just being out there and flaunting your faith," Tlaib told CNN last month. "I always tell people that I'm exposing Islam in such a pivotal way, an impactful way, through public service."

Fayrouz Saad

Within 24 hours of announcing her bid for office in Michigan's 11th district, first-time candidate Fayrouz Saad said she found herself on the receiving end of a deluge of hate from "Twitter trolls" trying to undermine her campaign. But they couldn't stop her: On Tuesday, she'll try to defeat four other primary contenders for an open seat.

Should she win, Saad will have to run a fierce campaign against her Republican opponent. If she succeeds, she'll not only become the first Muslim woman to go to Congress—perhaps alongside Tlaib—but she'll also have managed to flip a red seat blue, helping give Democrats the numbers they need to regain control of the House.


Saad said she's running to preserve the American Dream just as her parents saw it when they came to the United States decades ago.

"I'm the product of that American dream," she told Broadly in January. "I'm running for Congress because I want to protect that American dream and I see it being threatened right now by the Trump administration. It really worries me."

Cori Bush

Cori Bush is hoping to deal a crushing blow to the Democratic machinery that's kept someone with the last name "Clay" in Missouri's 1st congressional district seat since 1969. On Tuesday, Bush will face off against Lacy Clay, who succeeded his father Bill Clay, and who has served the district for the last nine terms.

Clay says his record in Congress speaks for itself, confident that voters will cast their ballot for a sitting congressman with a proven track record over a newcomer. But even more so, Clay says he feels certain that what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off in New York could never happen in Missouri—St. Louis, Clay told a local paper last month, "is not the Bronx."

Bush is sure he's wrong. Buoyed by support from Ocasio-Cortez herself, who gave Bush a shout-out in her June victory speech and later stumped for her in St. Louis, Bush believes her experience as a community organizer at the Ferguson protests coupled with her progressive politics will help her defeat Clay to become Missouri's first Black congresswoman.

"Ferguson was just regular people who made change that affected the entire world," Bush told Broadly. "If I won this seat, I would be a regular person representing regular people in Congress."