Why 2015 Was a Year of Political Firsts

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A toast to another year coming to an end, and what a year it has been. In 2015, America saw the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, a brand-new House Speaker, a whopping 17 people declare their candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, and a Bush and a Clinton once again enter the race for the White House.

It’s been an historic 2015. Here’s a look at how it’s been a year of political firsts:

First Time a President Mentions ‘Transgender’ in State of the Union Address

“That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” President Obama said during his sixth State of the Union address in January 2015.

Obama that night became the first US Head of State to mention "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" in such a high profile speech, CNN reported.

In August, the Obama administration also announced the appointment of the first openly transgender official serving in the White House.

First Viable Female Candidate with No Political Experience to Run for the GOP Nomination

Republican presidential nominee Carly Fiorina has never held political office. She did run for US Senate in 2012 against Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, and lost. However, Fiorina argues it’s her experience as CEO at Hewlett-Packard that makes her fit for office. That makes her the first woman who has never held office to be considered a viable candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

Though she’s an underdog, if Fiorina goes on to win the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2016, she will be the first woman in US history to do so.

Michele Bachmann ran for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination but had experience as a U.S representative for Minnesota. In 1964, Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith became the first woman to have her name entered for a major party’s nomination for the presidency, but she had served several terms in the House and was in her second term when she ran.

First time a pope addressed a joint session of Congress

PHOTO: Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber of the Capitol, Sept. 24, 2015. Tom Williams/Getty Images
Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber of the Capitol, Sept. 24, 2015.

On Sept. 24, 2015, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to address a joint session of U.S. Congress.

“I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Pope Francis said.

His historic address delivered from the House chamber addressed a number of issues including immigration, climate change, Cuba, and religious freedom.

The pope arrived a day before his address to Congress and was greeted by the Obamas.

“Today, we mark many firsts. Your Holiness, you have been celebrated as the first Pope from the Americas," the president said. "This is your first visit to the United States. And you are also the first pontiff to share an Encyclical through a Twitter account.”

First Speaker of the House to come from Wisconsin

Following the pope’s visit, House Speaker John Boehner announced he will be stepping down. House conservatives scrambled to find someone to replace Boehner, and called for one reluctant Wisconsin representative to run for House speaker: Rep. Paul Ryan.

Ryan finally gave in to his party, won enough votes to secure the position and took the oath of office October 29 to be officially sworn in as new Speaker of the House. Ryan is the first person from the Badger state to hold this position.

Ryan has also broke a different record -- he’s the youngest Speaker of the House since James G. Blaine was elected speaker in 1869 at 39 years old, according to CBS News.

First time two Cuban-Americans are running for president

PHOTO: (L-R) Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz speak during Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, Nov. 10, 2015. Morry Gash/AP Photo | Jeffrey Phelps/AP Photo
(L-R) Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz speak during Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, Nov. 10, 2015.

In March, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz became the first candidate to throw his hat into the 2016 race. That day, Cruz also became the first Cuban American to run for president. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio followed, announcing his bid for the White House in April.

While this is not the first time a Hispanic candidate has run for the GOP nomination, this is the first time two candidates have ran in the same election cycle who are Cuban American. Cruz and Rubio are also both freshman senators.

First time a same-sex couple has been featured in a major candidate’s presidential announcement ad

PHOTO: Jared Milrad, left and Nathan Johnson, a gay couple from Chicago, were featured in Hillary Clintons presidential announcement video on April 12, Hillary for America
Jared Milrad, left and Nathan Johnson, a gay couple from Chicago, were featured in Hillary Clinton's presidential announcement video on April 12,

Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president with a campaign ad released April 12, 2015.

While the obvious big news was that Clinton was running for president again, there was something else about the presidential announcement ad that caught national attention.

New Yorkers Jared Milrad and Nathan Johnson are two of the “everyday” Americans in Clinton’s ad, marking the first time a same-sex couple has been featured in a major party candidate’s presidential announcement.

“I’m getting married this summer to someone I really care about” is heard over the video of Milrad and Johnson holding hands.

First time Trump has officially run for president

This year was the first time that Donald Trump officially became a candidate for president after toying with the idea of running in previous years. The real estate mogul has publicly flirted with runs in the 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 election cycles.

In 1988, as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," a younger Donald Trump was asked by Oprah if he’d ever consider a White House bid.

“I probably wouldn’t,” Trump said. “But I do get tired of seeing what’s happening with this country and if it got so bad I would never want to rule it out totally.” Trump also told Oprah should he decide to run for president, he’d “have one hell of a chance of winning.”

In 2000, Trump announced an exploratory committee for the Reform Party’s nomination and in 2004, according to CNN, Trump said he was “very seriously” thinking about running for president. In 2006, Trump suggested on Fox News he’d jump into the 2008 race. Ahead of the 2012 election, Trump recorded a web video saying: “I could run as an independent. If the Republicans pick the wrong person I would, in fact, seriously consider running."

But this year it was for real. In June 2015, Trump came gliding down an escalator in Trump Tower to announce he was, in fact, seeking the GOP nomination for president.