Editor’s Note: Our coverage of Mina Davis is part of Running Women, a project following 15 compelling women candidates for U.S. political offices in 2018. Check back often for updates.
Marienella “Mina” Davis is a 24-year-old data scientist and small business owner running to represent the 8th District in Nebraska’s unusual unicameral and nonpartisan State Senate — and become the body’s youngest woman and first Asian American. A Democrat, she is the only person of color running for office in the entire state.
Davis grew up in the overwhelmingly white Omaha suburb of Millard, and has said she got used to being an “outlier” and learned how to use her differentness as a tool for progress. People often try to “overlook” her race as a factor in the race in order to make themselves more comfortable, she says. But Davis prefers to talk about it openly. Avoiding the topic, she believes, means avoiding discussion of important ideas that she wants to bring into the light.
The 8th District, which covers part of Omaha, is currently served by Sen. Burke Harr, who is ineligible for re-election due to term limits. It is comprised mostly of working-class, low-income people and families — people who Davis says don’t have the time or resources to represent themselves and their interests in the state and national government. She aims to be their voice.
On Christmas Day, Davis’ office received a “glitter bomb,” or an envelope stuffed with glitter that’s designed to make a mess when opened. Though she was able to contain the glitter, Davis expressed concern to the police that hate mail could be next. “I’m a young woman of color … It’s the age of Trump and people have gotten much more malicious to express their displeasure,” she told a local news channel.
Davis was raised in a family that drilled into her the importance of being an active citizen. Her father is a veteran who served 6 years in the Air Force, and he strove to keep Davis and her sisters politically informed and enthusiastic about their educations. Davis’s mother is an immigrant who obtained United States citizenship when Davis was a young girl. Davis remembers helping her mother study for the citizenship test — an experience that impressed upon her the value of being a citizen of this country and planted a desire serve.
This is the recent college graduate’s first run for office. She credits the 2008 Nebraska Democratic caucus between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, which she attended with her father, as the event that inspired her political career. She worked on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 and became a fellow for him that year. In 2016, she became a Bernie Sanders delegate and traveled to Philadelphia with the Nebraska delegation to the Democratic National Convention. She received candidate training from the nonpartisan group, VoteRunLead.
Davis was an active member of her school’s debate team, where she developed skills that should prove useful for an aspiring politician. Today, she is a debate coach, works as a data scientist and runs a small clothing e-commerce business. “I have been fairly successful and have inspired others, who wish to grow and learn how to empower themselves through entrepreneurship, by encouraging them to grow their own business,” she says on her site.
What Davis lacks in political experience she makes up for in youthful determination. She says she plans to fight hard all the way to the general election in November 2018.