Ethnic candidates rode the GOP /Tea Party wave, with Latinos and Indian-Americans capturing historic governorships and two black Republicans heading to Congress for the first time since 1997.
Ethnic minorities also prevailed in some key Democratic races. Here is a roundup of the most widely watched races of the night.
MARCO RUBIO (Republican), the designated Tea Party candidate, easily claimed the seat vacated by Cuban-American Republican Mel Martinez in August 2009, winning 50 percent of the vote. He defeated current Gov. Charlie Crist (29 percent), who quit the GOP to run against Rubio as an independent, and Democrat Rep. Kendrick Meeks (19 percent).
In a poll conducted by National Council of La Raza, shortly before the election, 62 percent of Latinos said they planned to vote for Rubio, who is 39. That contrasted with 2008, when Hispanics voted for Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden over Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin by a 67 to 31 percent margin, according to an analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center and CNN.
FLORIDA/U.S. CONGRESS (22nd DISTRICT)
ALLEN WEST, an African-American candidate and early Tea Party favorite, trounced his Democratic opponent, incumbent Ron Klein, 54 percent to 46 percent, becoming one of two black Republicans to win House seats this November.
New organizations called the race one of the nastiest election battles in Florida this year and the second most expensive House race in the country. West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Iraq War vet, gained a following with speeches like the one that went viral on You Tube, getting 2.3 million hits. Klein, who won the Boca Raton in 2008, sought to portray West as too radical for the swing district.
FLORIDA/U.S. CONGRESS (25TH DISTRICT)
DAVID RIVERA, a Republican state lawmaker and Miami-based public affairs consultant, defeated Democrat Joe Garcia, 54 percent to 41 percent, in the South Florida seat that had been held by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
After barely defeating Garcia in 2008, Diaz-Balart abandoned the 25th District (suburban and exurban Miami), and instead decided to run for the 21st Congressional District seat held since 1992 by his brother, Lincoln, who announced his retirement earlier this year. The 21st District (parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties) leans more Republican than the 25th District. But in a Republican-wave year, Rivera easily defeated Garcia, who had served most recently iin the Obama administration as director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact for the Department of Energy.
NEW YORK/U.S. CONGRESS (15th District)
CHARLES RANGEL, won another term by a wide margin despite lingering concerns over ethics allegations related to failing to pay income taxes and not properly disclosing personal assets.
Rangel- who won a crowded primary race in September and earned nearly 80 percent of the vote Tuesday-has, as it seems, developed strong loyalties in Harlem.
NIKKI HALEY, the daughter of a Sikh immigrants from India, defeated her Democratic opponent, Vincent Sheheen, 52 percent to 47 percent, making her the first woman chief executive of the state and America's second Indian-American governor after Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, also a Republican.
The race between between Haley and Sheheen to replace scandal-plagued GOP governor Mark Sanford is believed to have been the most expensive in state history.
Haley first ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives, becoming the first Indian American to hold office in the state. Her campaign for governor got a boost when she won the endorsement of Sarah Palin during the primary.
She saw quite a bit of controversy surround her campaign before the primary earlier this year. From a racial slur from a fellow lawmaker to unproven accusations of an affair by a political blogger , Haley still snagged the Republican nomination.
SOUTH CAROLINA/U.S. CONGRESS (1st DISTRICT)
TIM SCOTT, another black Tea Party candidate, easily defeated perennial Democratic candidate Ben Frasier and to win congressional seat left vacant by the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Henry Brown.
Scott, a small business owner who in 2009 became the first African-American Republican elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives since Reconstruction, takes over a district once represented by Gov. Mark Sanford. He earned his spot on the gop ticket with a primary victory over the son of the one-time segregationist U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond.
LOUISIANA/U.S. CONGRESS (2nd DISTRICT)
CEDRIC RICHMOND, a Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives since 2000, defeated the one-term Republican incumbent Anh "Joseph" Cao in the heavily Democratic New Orleans district, 58 percent to 39 percent.
Richmond, a 37-year-old African-American, had been expected to beat Cao, whose 2008 victory—for the seat long held by Democrat William Jefferson—was considered an anomaly, after Jefferson was accused of corruption. Cao, who immigrated from Vietnamese in 19TK, was the first Vietnamese American to serve in Congress and the first Republican elected from his district since 1891. Richmond, a New Orleans native, was the youngest person ever elected to the Louisiana legislature (at age 26).
MICHIGAN/U.S. CONGRESS (13th DISTRICT)
HANSEN CLARKE, a Democratic state senator, won the seat formerly held by Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick (mother of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick), whom he defeated in a primary challenge. His opponent in the November 2 election, John Hauler, business development director for an electronics firm and a tea party activist, had pitched a plan making Detroit a tax-free zone for 10 years
Clarke, 53, is the son of a Bangladeshi immigrant father and African-American mother who worked as a school-crossing guard to support the family after his father died. Before running for elected office, Clarke served as chief of staff to U.S. Representative John Conyers.
TEXAS/U.S. CONGRESS (17th DISTRICT)
BILL FLORES, a Republican former Houston oil executive, defeated longtime Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco), delivering the seat to national Republicans seeking to take control of the U.S. House.
“The voters sent a clear message that they want a new Congress that will help the economy recover,” Flores said in claiming victory.
Edwards, who has represented the district for 20 years, was tied to President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by Flores in campaign speeches and TV ads that played to national frustration with the party in power. “To turn this economy around, we’ve got to turn over Congress,” Flores said.
SUSANA MARTINEZ, a Republican district attorney from southern New Mexico, made history as the first Hispanic woman to become a state governor.
Martinez, 51, defeated Democrat Diane Denish, who had served two terms as lieutenant governor. There was no incumbent in the race, with Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson barred from seeking re-election because he is finishing his second consecutive term.
Tea Party supporter Martinez made Richardson—whose popularity plummeted amid high unemployment and federal investigations into pay-to-play allegations— a central figure in the campaign. Denish had been his running mate in 2002 and 2006.
The race for governor was Martinez's first bid for statewide elective office. She vowed to roll back many of Richardson's policies, including laws allowing illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses and the children of illegal immigrants to receive lottery-backed college scholarships if they graduate from a New Mexico high school. She advocated reinstating the death penalty, which was repealed in 2009.
Martinez once was a Democrat but became a Republican before successfully running in 1996 for Dona Ana County district attorney against her former boss.
She was born in El Paso, Texas, and worked as a security guard for her family's business when she was in high school.
BRIAN SANDOVAL, a Republican former Nevada attorney general, defeated Democrat Rory Reid, the son of embattled Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to become the first Latino governor in the state’s history.
Most recently, the 47-year-old Sandoval was a federal judge—appointed by George W. Bush in 2005—when he decided to challenge scandal-plagued incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons in the GOP primary. He easily defeated Reid, a lawyer who currently serves as Chairman of the Clark County Commission, 57 percent to 39 percent.
ARIZONA/ U.S. CONGRESS (7th DISTRICT)
U.S. REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA, the Democratic incumbent, was running neck and neck against Tea Party favorite Ruth McClung in the race for the Tucson-area seat he has held since 2002, but seemed to have enough votes to hold off her challenge.
Grijalva won his previous U.S. House elections with more than 60 percent of vote, and pundits assumed he would coast to victory this year as well. But he came under fire for his call for a boycott against the state in response to SB 1070, the hard-line anti-immigrant law. In the final month of the campaign, the race tightened until several national analysts said it was too close to call.
The 43-year-old Grijalva, who previously served on the Pima County Board of Supevisors is known for a grass-roots-based campaign, relying on volunteers knocking on doors more than on TV commercials.
McClung, a 28year-old who describes herself on Twitter as “a rocket scientist-Christian conservative physicist wife rockclimber artist,” took a similar approach.