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Asian-Americans make history in Boston, Cincinnati mayoral races

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VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 2: Voters begin casting ballots on November 2, 2021, in the US state of Virginia to elect their new governor. ( Yasin Öztürk - Anadolu Agency )
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Nov 04, 2021 - 08:11 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – Asian-Americans will for the first time take the top spots in the major American cities of Boston and Cincinnati after securing major electoral victories.

City Councilor Michelle Wu, 36, will make history as the first elected female and first person of color to be Boston’s mayor after fellow councilor Annissa Essaibi George, 47, conceded defeat even as a large share of votes remained uncounted.

Wu, who is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, maintained a clear lead against Essaibi George heading into Election Day. Both candidates are women of color in a city where non-Latino whites remain the largest ethnic group and which historically has elected white male leadership.

“We are ready for Bostonians to know that we don’t have to choose between generational change, and keeping the street lights on,” she told supporters. “We need, we deserve both.”

Wu’s barrier-breaking victory came as Aftab Pureval, 39, did the same in the midwestern city of Cincinnati as he handily defeated former congressman David Mann.

Pureval is of Tibetan and Indian heritage, and remarked on his family’s path in America after declaring victory, saying they “went from being refugees to now the next mayor of Cincinnati.”

“They came to this country to provide a better life for their two sons,” he said. “I don’t know if they envisioned a night like tonight.”

Pureval and Wu are progressive Democrats in cities that had traditionally been bastions of the party, but further afield Democrats faced wake-up calls in states they handily won in last year’s general election.

In Virginia, where voters picked Democrat Joe Biden by a margin of 10 points over former President Donald Trump in 2020, fates reversed for the party a year later in the race for the governor’s mansion.

Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former businessman and longtime party financier, secured victory after riding on a platform of education and taxation while trying to keep Trump at arm’s length even after receiving his full-throated endorsement.

The strategy to appeal to moderates on foundational issues, particularly those in Virginia’s suburbs, worked for Youngkin as Democrats struggle to make headway on Biden’s legislative agenda, and as the country finds itself in the midst of rising inflation and higher gas prices.

The Associated Press called the race for Youngkin early Wednesday.

In New Jersey, where Biden won with a nearly 16 point margin, the gubernatorial race remained too close to call with Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli and incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy locked in a virtual dead heat Wednesday morning. Both candidates were nearly tied with just over 49% of the vote apiece.

The results in New Jersey and Virginia do not bode well for Democrats heading into the 2022 congressional elections. They cannot afford to lose seats in either chamber of Congress without further jeopardizing Biden’s agenda.

The Senate is split 50-50 between the parties while Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives. Losing control of either chamber would prove a foil for the second half of Biden’s term as Trump eyes another run for the White House.

It is unclear how the party will react following the electoral tectonic shifts.

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