Katie Hill made history in one of Tuesday night’s most-watched races, winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives for California’s 25th Congressional District. She defeated Republican incumbent Steve Knight, 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent.
Hill’s win carries a lot of firsts. The 2.6 percent margin-of-victory makes her the first queer woman elected to Congress from California. She’ll also be one of two LGBTQ women in the House of Representatives along with Sharice Davids, who was elected in Kansas’ 3rd District. Davids, an attorney and MMA fighter, is the first queer Native American woman to serve in the federal legislature.
At 31 years old, Hill joins newly elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who is 29) as one of the youngest women ever elected to Congress. In addition, she’s one of very few national leaders who is openly bisexual, along with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.
Sinema is currently battling an extremely close race to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate. Her Republican opponent, Martha McSally, leads by an extremely slim 15,000 votes at the time of publication. Although 99 percent of districts are reporting, the race has yet to be called. There are still one million ballots left to count.
But while Sinema opposes “Medicare for All” and ran on a centrist platform, Hill brings a long progressive record with her to Congress — not just for LGBTQ Americans, but on intersectional issues as well.
Before running for office, she made a name for herself as the executive director of PATH, a California nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness. With a Master’s degree in public administration, she focused on expanding access to affordable health care, a mission she plans to continue in Congress.
Hill wants to reform tax loopholes for the super-rich. She favors universal health care. she supports Planned Parenthood. She wants tighter regulation of the guns used in massacres. She supports a path to citizenship for Dreamers. She wants mega-polluters like the Aliso Canyon plant shut down. And of course, she’s pledged to defend LGBTQ equality in Congress.
Those positions have earned her the endorsement of Equality California, Equality PAC, the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Stonewall Democratic Club; but in addition to her close association with the queer community, she’s also a rancher, a rock climber, and a survivor of sexual assault.
If anything has defined her career and campaign, Hill said it’s a track record of compassion for the marginalized.
“I entered this race to serve our community and bring our voice and priorities to Washington,” Hill wrote in a statement on Wednesday. “I look forward to working on behalf of everyone in this district to ensure we all have access to quality health care, housing we can afford, and a representative and transparent government which truly serves the people.”
Let’s compare that to her conservative opponent.
Steve Knight’s father, Pete Knight, is responsible for the notorious “Knight Initiative,” which banned marriage equality in California two decades ago. The Republican has followed in his father’s homophobic footsteps. As a member of the California Senate, Steve Knight opposed marriage equality and voted against a bill banning anti-gay conversion therapy.
The race was extremely difficult to predict, with polling neck-and-neck up to the final moments of the campaign. An October poll showed Hill losing to Knight by four points, but an earlier survey showed her winning by the exact same margin.
The Republican reportedly conceded the race in a 10:30am voicemail on Nov. 7.
California’s 25th Congressional district has grown highly competitive in the past few years. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the Santa Clarita district with 50.3 percent of the vote. As a result, progressive organizers poured resources into the race, and Hill’s campaign is estimated to have raised a little over six million dollars and knocked on more than 500,000 doors.
Hill recognized the “historic” nature of her victory in the midterms. As numbers rolled in Tuesday, early estimates show 150 LGBTQ candidates were also elected.
“Our goal from day one was to empower this community to have a voice… and we delivered,” she said. “I am incredibly grateful to everyone who invested their time and energy into this effort. This is just the beginning.”
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