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Mississippi finally has a woman in Congress

More women than ever ran for political office this cycle. Sign up for our newsletter following them.

by Carter Sherman
Nov 28 2018, 8:20pm
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More women than ever ran for political office this cycle. Sign up for our newsletter following them.

The last Senate race of the 2018 midterms is over, and Mississippi has elected its first woman to serve in Congress. The numbers are in, but the jury’s still out on the cultural and political ramifications of some of the biggest fights of the midterms.

To start, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is trying to outrun her own shadow and become House speaker (again). Even during the elections, a centrist group debated turning her into a “bogeyman.” Plus, with more women running for office, this cycle spotlighted their need for child care, as I wrote back in August. At least nine congressional candidates took advantage of their new ability to use campaign contributions to cover the costs, but state candidates are still fighting to have that option: One mom running for the Louisiana Legislature was told that using those funds was a “misplaced priority.” Meanwhile, Stacey Abrams is still combating voter suppression, and black women in Georgia aren’t done advocating for themselves, for their state, and for Abrams (who wants to run again).

I know you all eagerly check your inbox every Wednesday for this newsletter, but next week’s installment will be a little late. Because Louisiana holds its runoff elections for several state and local offices next Saturday, the next edition of the newsletter will drop Sunday, Dec. 9.

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Cindy Hyde-Smith became the first woman ever elected to represent Mississippi in Congress. The Republican candidate, who was appointed to take over retiring Thad Cochran’s Senate term earlier this year, defeated Democrat Mike Espy in a runoff election Tuesday. It’s not exactly surprising that a Republican won in blood-red Mississippi, but Hyde-Smith narrowed her path to victory when she tried to praise a supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row.”

That remark was widely criticized as racist, given that Mississippi was once the lynching capital of the nation. It also triggered a series of scandals that revealed, among other things, that Hyde-Smith really likes commemorating the Confederacy and that she attended a “segregation academy.” (She later apologized for the “public hanging” remark.)

“Unleashed, untethered, and I am unshackled.” That’s how Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love said she feels after losing her re-election bid for the state’s 4th Congressional District last week. One of her first targets? President Donald Trump. In her first post-defeat public appearance Monday, she described the president’s approach to politics as “no real relationships, just convenient transactions.” Trump had gone after Love, the only black Republican woman in Congress, the day after the midterms, by proclaiming at a press conference that “Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost.” (She had not yet lost.)

Is it 2020 yet? A bevy of Democratic candidates are already vying for the chance to take on Trump, but the road to Indecision 2020 is long and uphill. (Shoutout to the Jon Stewart-era “Daily Show” for that evergreen pun.)

  • Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she’s "still thinking about" whether to run for president.

  • California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris might lose her seat on the high-profile Senate Judiciary Committee, which could slash her national exposure ahead of her long-rumored 2020 run.

  • Some major Democratic donors are still blaming New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for being the first to ask Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken to step down earlier this year over sexual misconduct allegations. That could hurt her 2020 prospects.

FYI: Gabbard is the first Samoan-American and the first Hindu elected to the House.

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We’re all painfully aware that American politics are growing more and more divided. In fact, 136 women in Texas were so afraid of being outed as members of a progressive collective that they signed confidentiality agreements, discovered Emily Van Duyn, a doctoral candidate studying communication at the University of Texas at Austin. Some of these women feared both social ostracization and physical harm, Van Duyn wrote in the Washington Post. One woman told her she wouldn’t put up a yard sign because she “lives in an area with people who carry guns in their car.”

After Van Duyn publicized her research, scores of women in similar circumstances started reaching out to her. Their experiences, Van Duyn argued, speak to a broader problem of division and intolerance in the country. “Their experience of fear and intimidation challenges assumptions about democracy in the United States,” she wrote in the Post. “That is, in a truly liberal democracy, people should be able to voice their views without fear of retaliation.”

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“They can look at the Florida race as well as the Georgia races and see that the secretary of state office, being the third-highest office in our state, has the ability to influence all of the other offices if that power is wielded in the wrong direction. That office guards our ballot box, and we have to make sure that we are able to vote securely.”

— Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup, who’s running to become secretary of state in Louisiana.

While the rest of the country held its general elections on Nov. 6, Louisiana had its primary that day. In races where no candidate captured 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advanced to a Dec. 8 runoff. That means Collins-Greenup, a businesswoman and minister, is still running for office. She knows it’s a confusing system.

“One of the reasons that I’m running is the voter education piece. There’s a disconnect between what people know about voting and the way voting actually works,” she told me. “Sometimes they’re not sure whether the person won or not or whether they came in second. They’re not sure that there’s gonna be another election coming.” If Collins-Greenup wins next week, she’ll be the first black woman to serve statewide in Louisiana.

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If you’re confused why Democrats are so riled up over Pelosi’s bid for speaker of the House, or what, exactly, Pelosi needs to do to win the seat, VICE News Tonight’s Alexandra Jaffe has you covered.

Progressive Democrats in Congress are already pushing their leaders to adopt a “Green New Deal,” which aims to create an economy based on 100 percent renewable energy within a decade, among other goals. “It’s about making sure that we can get as progressive and aggressive of legislation as a party on climate change as quickly as possible,” New York Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told VICE News’ Matt Laslo.

Ocasio-Cortez visited Pelosi’s office earlier this month to support a sit-in staged by more than 150 members of the Sunrise Movement, a group of young environmental activists who range in age from 12 to 25. They also support a Green New Deal and are trying to convince more Democrats in Congress to join them. “I believe we are in a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party right now,” Sunrise Movement activist Claire Tacherra-Morrison, 24, told VICE News’ Rex Santus.

That’s all for this week, but if you want to say hi — or send any tips — email me here. You can also find me on Twitter at @carter_sherman. Thanks to Leslie Xia for the design.

Cover image: Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks to her supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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