Ghazala Hashmi on Tuesday (Nov. 5) became the first Muslim women elected to the Virginia Senate. Ms. Hashmi, 55, upset the Republican incumbent Glen Sturtevant to represent a district based in Chesterfield County.
With all 70 precincts reporting, Hashmi won 43,806 votes, while Sturtevant had 36,811 votes. Sturtevant narrowly won in 2015 against his Democratic opponent.
Her victory helped to flip the Senate Tuesday night as Democrats took control of both chambers and consolidated power across state government for the first time in a generation.
A former literature professor and community-college administrator, Ghazala Hashmi campaigned on issues that included improving education, taking action on gun control and expanding access to health care.
"Muslims in America are just like any other American," Ms. Hashmi said in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday. "I have been a troop leader for Girl Scouts. I have been active in my daughters' school and volunteer work. All the things that another suburban mom might be doing, I've been doing."
Ghazala Hashmi immigrated to the U.S. as a child and has worked in Virginia higher education for 25 years. She's currently the founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Reynolds Community College. In a statement released after the win, Hashmi thanked voters regardless of party affiliation and promised to work with Democrats on addressing climate change, gun violence, health care and public education.
"This victory, is not mine alone," reads the statement. "It belongs to all of you who believed that we needed to make progressive change here in Virginia, for all of you who felt that you haven't had a voice and believed in me to be yours in the General Assembly."
Earlier, Hashmi wrote, "I decided to run for the State Senate because in 400 years of the General Assembly the oldest legislative body in America Virginians have never elected a Muslim woman to office. I decided to run for the State Senate because if marginalized communities like mine don't stand up for ourselves, we can't expect others to do it for us."
At least two Muslim men serve in the House. Other Muslim state legislators are men; Ibraheem Samirah and Sam Rasoul serve in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Huffington Post said Ghazala Hashmi's win was part of the blue wave that swept Virginia on Tuesday. Democrats successfully flipped both houses of the state legislature. The election has been described as a possible "watershed" moment for the once-conservative Southern state, the Post added.
Ed Kilgore of Intelligencer wrote Wednesday: "On Tuesday, Virginia Democrats regained control of both the House of Delegates and the State Senate. From one perspective, this Democratic victory seemed inevitable and uneventful. The Donkey Party made big gains in the lower House in 2017 (though a lottery drawing in a tied election went to the GOP and denied Democrats control) and performed very well in federal elections in 2018, flipping three U.S. House seats.
"Republicans don't hold any statewide office, haven't carried the state in a presidential election since 2004, haven't won a U.S. Senate race since 2002, and have lost the last two gubernatorial contests as well. But the results could have significant implications beyond the fact that Democrats now hold their first governing 'trifecta' in the Commonwealth since 1993 and will control decennial redistricting for both the U.S. House and the state legislature," Kilgore said, adding:
"Lest we forget, Virginia was on the short list of targets for a Trump reelection campaign determined to expand the map of battleground states beyond Florida, North Carolina, and the three Rust Belt states Trump won by an eyelash in 2016 (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). That's not looking very likely right now."