By Kelly Werthmann
DENVER (CBS4) – It’s a historic win not seen in decades.
“It’s something that a lot of people didn’t expect,” Jena Griswold said.
In her first-ever run for office, 34-year-old Jena Griswold unseated her opponent, Republican Wayne Williams, becoming the first-ever Democratic woman to serve as Colorado’s Secretary of State. Griswold is also the first Democrat elected to the position since the 1950s.
“I am so honored,” she told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “You get a surge of excitement of, ‘Wow! We did this!’ And it’s not a, ‘Wow! I did this,’ because I didn’t do it alone.”
Griswold is certainly not alone in her historic victory. She is among dozens of women across the country breaking barriers.
“I wished we weren’t breaking barriers, right? It’s 2018,” she said.
Voters elected candidates with backgrounds never seen before in Congress. The record-breaking number of women on ballots included Marsha Blackburn, the first women to represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate. In New York, voters decided Washington could benefit from a new generation: Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to Congress at just 29 years old.
Other historic victories included candidates of color and the first two Muslim women elected to Congress – Democrat Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Democrate Ilhan Omar in Minnesota. Omar came to the United States as a refugee, and will be the first Somali-American in the House of Representatives.
“In Minnesota, it’s a cold state, but the people have warm hearts,” Omar said during an interview on CBS This Morning. “We don’t just welcome immigrants, we send them to Washington.”
Griswold said she is encouraged by the many women elected yesterday. She said gender and shattering a glass ceiling aren’t motivators for running for office, it’s a desire to be a leader.
“You don’t wake up and say, ‘I’m going to do a brutal two years to try to win this seat because I want to be the first this, that or the other,’” she said. “I think most people are motivated by, ‘What do I think I could add? What do I think that’s not getting done that we can get done if we get the right leadership in these offices?’”
Griswold believes the historical wins add much needed diversity to American leadership.
“It’s important in a democracy that all our voices be heard,” she said.
While she’s ready to get to work in Colorado, Griswold is hopeful women everywhere will keep fighting for change.
“We have to remember that although we did have those wins, the marches, the organizing, it can’t stop,” she said. “There are equality issues that still need to be worked on in this country.”
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.