Minnesota may not be known widely for its diversity, but you wouldnâÄôt know it to look at our elected officials. In Hussein Samatar, Minneapolis has elected MinnesotaâÄôs first ever Somali immigrant to public office. He will be joined on the Minneapolis School Board by Puerto Rican Alberto Monserrate. Meanwhile, St. Paul elected its first black legislators of any origin, both of whom filled seats vacated by MinnesotaâÄôs pioneering Hmong lawmakers. Late last week, the newly Republican Minnesota State Senate also voted in its first ever female majority leader, Sen. Amy Koch of Buffalo.
The diversity of elected officials is no mere token of fairness or political correctness. ItâÄôs about representation in a very real sense of the word âÄî having someone in office who is uniquely qualified to speak to a groupâÄôs particular perspective, experience, interests and concerns. Of course, thereâÄôs a long way to go to improve political representation here and elsewhere, but we commend Minnesotan voters for being persistently open-minded.
Across the country, there were other surges in political diversity this election âÄî three states elected their first female governors, one of whom is the countryâÄôs first Latina governor. Latinos overall saw gains at many levels. Even the Tea Party movement, which has struggled against repeated allegations of racism, has elected Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, to represent Florida in the Senate.
Yet for the first time since before President Barack Obama was elected Senator of Illinois in 2004, there will not be a single black member of the U.S. Senate. If the president broke any glass ceilings on his way up, then certainly the country is still picking up the pieces.