Ten days had passed since the last ballot was cast, but USC alumna Young Kim’s fate in her race for a seat in Congress still hung in the balance.
Two years prior, the Republican had lost a tight battle to represent California’s 39th congressional district. She returned for redemption in this year’s election, only to face familiar suspense as the votes were counted.
Kim’s persistence paid off. When she finally was declared the winner, she joined six other Trojans who earned election or re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 3 contest. Rep. Karen Bass MSW ’15, Rep. Nanette Barragán JD ’05 and Michelle Steel MBA ’10 all won seats in California. Across the country in Georgia, Carolyn Bourdeaux MPA ’98 won in a race to represent a district in suburban Atlanta. Finally, Ashley Hinson ’04 earned a seat in a northeastern district of Iowa and Mariannette Miller-Meeks MS ’80 emerged victorious in a tight race in southeastern Iowa.
When they start their service on Jan. 3, 2021, the USC alumnae will make history: They’ll be among at least 141 women in the 117th Congress, the largest number of women ever in the U.S. legislature. Here are a few notable facts about these record breakers.
Bass serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where she is the chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Achievements: Before serving in Congress, Bass was elected as the California State Assembly’s 67th speaker. Under her leadership, the assembly prioritized federal economic stimulus legislation that aided Californians affected by the national economic crisis in the late 2000s. Before running for elected office, she worked for nearly a decade as a physician assistant. She graduated from the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Physician Assistant Program, where she also served as a clinical instructor. In 1990, Bass started and ran the Community Coalition, a community-based social justice organization in South Los Angeles.
The future of our world in this century will be determined by the choices made by the graduates seated here today.Karen Bass
2020 Race: A Democrat, Bass received 86% of the vote to defeat documentary filmmaker Errol Webber in California’s 37th congressional district and win her sixth term. The district encompasses many Los Angeles neighborhoods, including South Los Angeles, Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Miracle Mile, Pico-Robertson, Century City, Cheviot Hills, West Los Angeles and Mar Vista.
Quoted: “We need you to dream and to lead,” Bass told USC graduates in her 2019 commencement address. “The future of our world in this century will be determined by the choices made by the graduates seated here today. How’s that for pressure?”
With her victory, Kim is one of the first Korean American women to serve in Congress, alongside newly elected — and fellow USC alumna — Michelle Steel.
Achievements: A working mother of four, Kim started her career as a small business owner and financial analyst. She entered public service as a staff member in former Rep. Ed Royce’s office more than 25 years ago, rising to become director of community operations. In 2014, she became the first Korean American woman to represent Southern California in the state assembly. As a legislator, Kim authored AB 2078, a bill protecting domestic violence survivors that passed with bipartisan support.
Trojan Ties: Kim earned her degree in business administration in 1994 from the USC Marshall School of Business.
Our community is such a wonderful place, because we come together to look out for one another. I will take that spirit with me to represent you in Washington, D.C.Young Kim
2020 Race: Kim defeated incumbent Rep. Gil Cisneros by a narrow margin, receiving 50.6% of the vote to win California’s 39th congressional district. She will now represent parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, including Fullerton, La Habra, Buena Park, Anaheim Hills, Yorba Linda and Diamond Bar.
Quoted: “Regardless of any difference we may have, I will always work on your behalf and fight for you,” Kim said in a Twitter message to voters from her district. “Our community is such a wonderful place, because we come together to look out for one another. I will take that spirit with me to represent you in Washington, D.C.”
Barragán is the second vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a member of the Progressive Caucus. She serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Natural Resources. In 2019, she became the first Latina in 10 years and the second ever to hold a seat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Achievements: Prior to first winning her current seat in 2016, Barragán practiced law for 10 years and served on the Hermosa Beach City Council from 2013 to 2015 as the city’s first Latina councilmember.
Trojan Ties: Barragán earned her law degree from the USC Gould School of Law.
I will fight to ensure that trade agreements are transparent and reflect our national priorities.Nanette Barragán
2020 Race: A Democrat, Barragán defeated challenger Analilia Joya with 68% of the vote. This most recent victory marks her third term as the representative from California’s 44th congressional district. The district includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate and Watts.
Quoted: “I will fight to ensure that trade agreements are transparent and reflect our national priorities,” Barragán said on her website. “We need agreements that benefit working families, raise wages and keep good paying jobs here at home, as well as provide environmental safeguards and health protections.”
Campaigning on her “tax-fighter” track record, the chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors touted her work in guiding the county through COVID-19 and providing support for vulnerable communities.
Achievements: Steel emigrated from South Korea with her family when she was a teenager. She has been a county supervisor since 2015 and is a former member of the California State Board of Equalization, where she served from 2007 to 2015.
Trojan Ties: She holds a master’s degree in business administration from USC Marshall.
… I’m determined to fight for less government regulations and more aid for the small businesses.Michelle Steel
2020 Race: Steel, a Republican, defeated incumbent Rep. Harley Rouda with 51% of the vote to win California’s 48th congressional district. The district includes Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Newport Beach, Seal Beach and Surfside.
Quoted: “It’s been tough,” Steel told the Los Angeles Times as she reflected on her race. “What made the difference is I stick to my issues, and I’m determined to fight for less government regulations and more aid for the small businesses.”
Bourdeaux has been a professor at the Andrew Young School of Public Policy at Georgia State University since 2003.
Achievements: From 2007 to 2010, she took a leave of absence to direct Georgia’s Senate Budget and Evaluation Office, where she worked in a nonpartisan role to help the state balance the budget during the Great Recession. Bourdeaux later returned to the Andrew Young School and founded the Center for State and Local Finance to teach the next generation of leaders about responsible and compassionate public policy.
Trojan Ties: She earned her master’s degree in public administration from the USC Price School of Public Policy.
I’ll fight for a world-class education system and to give our educators the resources they need.Carolyn Bourdeaux
2020 Race: Bourdeaux, a Democrat, received slightly more than 51% of the vote to defeat emergency room doctor Rick McCormick in Georgia’s 7th congressional district, which encompasses the northeast section of Atlanta. The seat opened after incumbent Rep. Rob Woodall — who bested Bourdeaux in 2018 by fewer than 500 votes — announced his retirement.
Quoted: “My parents were both teachers — they instilled in me a deep commitment to public service,” Bourdeaux said recently on her Twitter feed. “I’ll fight for a world-class education system and to give our educators the resources they need.”
A former television anchor, Hinson campaigned on her efforts in Iowa’s state government to balance the budget, cut taxes and advocate for vulnerable populations.
Achievements: As the first woman to represent Iowa’s 67th district in the state legislature, Hinson prioritized funding for education and rural health care. Prior to elected office, she worked as a broadcast journalist for KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids for more than a decade. Hinson won two regional Emmy awards for her reporting, among other honors.
Trojan Ties: Hinson earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
I’m going to make sure that I’m doing what I said I would do, which is fight for taxpayers.Ashley Hinson
2020 Race: In the Nov. 3 contest, the Republican defeated incumbent Democrat Abby Finkenauer by slightly more than 10,000 votes, giving Hinson a 51.3% majority. She will represent the state’s 1st congressional district, which includes the cities of Cedar Rapids and Dubuque.
Quoted: “I’m going to make sure that I’m doing what I said I would do, which is fight for taxpayers,” Hinson told the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier after her election victory. “I talked a lot about issues that were really important to small businesses, to transportation and infrastructure, to families, to making it easier to have a family and providing flexibilities.”
A retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and former ophthalmologist, Miller-Meeks emphasized her background in health care and public service while campaigning for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in Iowa.
Achievements: The Republican is a state senator representing Iowa’s 41st district. She has been the director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, the first woman president of the Iowa Medical Society and the first woman faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa. At age 18, she enlisted in the U.S. Army and served for 24 years, earning her medical degree along the way.
Iowans are tenacious, optimistic and hardworking, and I will take those same attributes to Washington, D.C., on their behalf.Mariannette Miller-Meeks
Trojan Ties: Miller-Meeks earned her master’s degree in education from the USC Rossier School of Education.
2020 Race: In one of the tightest contests in the nation, Miller-Meeks edged out her Democratic opponent by six votes in Iowa’s 2nd district, according to results certified by state election officials. She will represent a swath of southeastern Iowa that includes the cities of Davenport and Iowa City.
Quoted: “It is the honor of a lifetime to be elected to serve the people of eastern and southern Iowa,” Miller-Meeks told the Associated Press. “Iowans are tenacious, optimistic and hardworking, and I will take those same attributes to Washington, D.C., on their behalf.”