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In elections across the country, candidates of color made history Tuesday night

Updated November 3, 2021 at 10:01 AM ET

People of color made history on election night in 2021, bringing diversity to leadership roles in some of America's biggest cities, and in some states as well.

Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and Dearborn, Mich., were among the places that a majority of voters embraced minority candidates.

Here's a rundown of some of the most high-profile wins — a list that we'll be updating as results continue to come in:

Michelle Wu is the first woman and person of color to be elected Boston's mayor

The city councilor and daughter of Taiwanese immigrants broke Boston's 199-year streak of white, male city leaders. Michelle Wu defeated fellow Democratic City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, a self-described first-generation Arab-Polish American.

As NPR's Vanessa Romo reports, "For many, the race came down to competing visions of the future with Essaibi George's version cast as more of the old guard and Wu's perceived as new-school Boston." Here are some of Wu's priorities.

Pittsburgh elects Ed Gainey, the city's first Black mayor ever

Ed Gainey is the winner of Pittsburgh's mayoral race. He's seen here last summer, during a visit to his former 4th-grade classroom.
Jeff Swensen / The Washington Post via Getty Images
Pittsburgh native Ed Gainey, pictured during a visit to his former 4th-grade classroom, is the winner of the city's mayoral race.

The western Pennsylvania metropolis, which is 23% Black, largely favored the Democrat Ed Gainey over Republican challenger Tony Moreno. Gainey was born and raised by a single mother in Pittsburgh, where he lived in public housing and later found a career in politics.

"We know how people have talked about Pittsburgh, how siloed it is, how segregated it is," Gainey told supporters on Tuesday, according to member station WESA. "But today, you changed that."

Eric Adams becomes the second Black man to lead New York City

New Yorkers chose Democrat Eric Adams, a former police department captain, as the city's second Black mayor. It was lopsided victory for Adams, a former state senator who is currently the Brooklyn borough president.

"I am you," he told supporters Tuesday night, according to the Gothamist website. "For a young man from south Jamaica Queens that grew up with all the challenges that New Yorkers face, it is not just a victory over adversity, it is a vindication of faith."

Adams ran on a promise to improve public safety and fight gun violence and to boost the efficiency of the city's police force. More on the race here.

Cincinnati elects Aftab Pureval as its first Asian American mayor

The 39-year-old Democrat started his political career six years ago as an outsider, member station WVXU reports, and last night, he defeated 82-year-old opponent David Mann, "a longtime pillar of Cincinnati City Hall."

The Tibetan-Indian son of immigrants, Aftab Pureval, earned his law degree and worked for Procter & Gamble before running successfully for Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in 2016.

He is the fourth person to be elected under the direct election of the mayor system, in a race that saw remarkably low turnout at 24%. WVXU has more on Pureval here.

Winsome Sears will be the first Black woman to be Virginia's lieutenant governor

Winsome Sears takes the stage on election night. The Republican will become Virginia's next lieutenant governor, reaching a new height for Black women in the state.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Winsome Sears takes the stage on election night. The Republican will become Virginia's next lieutenant governor, reaching new heights for Black women in the state.

It's the highest office a woman of color has won in Virginia's history. Winsome Sears, a Republican, won a race that highlighted diversity: her Democratic opponent, Hala Ayala, comes from a family with Salvadoran, Irish, Lebanese and North African heritage.

"Just 10 Black women in the U.S. have ever held statewide office," member station WAMU reports.

"What you are looking at is the American dream," Sears, a pro-Trump former Marine, said, according to WAMU. "I didn't run to make history. I ran to leave it better than I found it ... Help is on the way."

Abdullah Hammoud becomes the first Arab-American and Muslim mayor of Dearborn, Mich.

The Detroit suburb boasts one of the largest Arab communities in the U.S., but that had never been reflected in the city's highest office. Abdullah Hammoud, the son of Lebanese immigrants, dedicated his victory speech Tuesday night to "any young girls or boys who have been ridiculed for their faith or ethnicity." The Democratic state representative defeated his opponent, longtime Michigan politician Gary Woronchak.

Tyrone Garner will be the first Black mayor of Kansas City, Kan.

In his first political race, Tyrone Garner unseated one-term incumbent David Alvey in the race to lead Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County — which have a unified government.

Garner is a former high-ranking police officer. He retired as deputy chief in June 2019, according to member station KCUR. His campaign focused not on getting tough on crime but on improving economic equity and public services, particularly for people in neglected neighborhoods. "I am a forward thinker that wants to be a unifying force to facilitate opportunity, equity and hope," he told KCUR.

Alvin Bragg is Manhattan's new district attorney, the first Black person to hold the job

A native of Harlem, Alvin Bragg was most recently the chief deputy attorney general of New York State. He'll lead an office that's currently pursuing an investigation into former President Donald Trump's business practices. Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced earlier this year that he would not seek a fourth term.

Bruce Harrell seizes a big lead in Seattle's mayoral race

Bruce Harrell would be the first Asian American and the second Black person to lead Seattle. All of the city's votes are not yet counted, but Harrell has 65% of the tally as of early Wednesday morning, compared with 35% for Lorena González, who would become the city's first Latina mayor if she manages to stage a comeback.

Harrell is a moderate who took González, a progressive, to task over her support for defunding the police. "I would say to the abolitionists and the defunders that we need to drive outcomes and invest in outcomes that we want," he said, according to member station KUOW. "We want culturally competent, de-escalating officers who take their oath of office in such a way that they will protect all communities."

It will be days before Seattle's vote is final, in part because ballots can still be mailed on Election Day. In recent years, no candidate has surmounted a 30% early deficit, The Seattle Times says. KUOW says, "Seattle's Election Night reflected a regional and national trend, of liberals getting trounced."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: November 3, 2021 at 12:00 AM EDT
In a previous version of this story, we said Aftab Pureval is the son of immigrants from India. His father is Indian but his mother was a refugee from Tibet who fled to India.
Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
Bill Chappell
Bill Chappell is a writer, reporter and editor, and a leader on NPR's flagship digital news team. He has frequently contributed to NPR's audio and social media platforms, including hosting dozens of live shows online.
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