Black Women Run for Governor in 2022: Stacy Abrams and Others Trying to Make History

So far in the 2022 midterm election cycle, 53 black women have applied to run for office at the state level, with at least eight of them in the running to be the first woman in U.S. history to be elected to the office of governor, according to a tally by the University of America’s Center for American Women in Politics. Rutgers (CAWP). The coalition told CNN that there are also 145 black women who have applied or indicated they will run for Congress — a record after 130 black women have run for office in the 2020 election.

But amid the optimism, challenges remain for those women running for governor, most of whom are democracies. Some of them operate in red-hot states and face huge disadvantages in raising funds against popular office holders.

They also face a difficult political season as inflation, rising gas prices and declining approval ratings for President Joe Biden threaten the narrow majority of Democrats in Congress. However, many of them are committed to seeing their race through to the finish, saying the time for black women to hit the front in statewide races is now.

Abrams has said that not only is she ready to be Georgia’s next CEO, but her nomination speaks volumes for the importance of representation.

“I grew up in a society where I don’t see people who look like me and are expected to be a mayor, mayor or CEO. My responsibility is to declare what is possible, but my duty is to make it happen,” she said.

Abrams, a former minority leader in the state assembly who didn’t have a large following outside Georgia four years ago, is now one of the most popular and influential Democrats in the country. According to a former aide, her campaign has more resources this time around.

“What has changed in her campaign is, simply put, they have more resources. So they have a bigger budget, they have more spotlight,” Abigail Collazo, a spokeswoman for the Abrams campaign said in 2018.

Abrams’ campaign volume was $7.2 million in the bank as of Jan. 31, according to a February campaign filing — far more than the $461,000 it reported in cash at the same point four years earlier. As of April 30, her campaign reports that she has raised more than $20 million and has more than $8 million in the bank.

“I haven’t seen the support you would normally see”

While Abrams has overcome fundraising hurdles and emerges as the candidate likely to win this fall, other black female governor candidates face an even tougher battle in mostly red states.

They include former Oklahoma Senator Connie Johnson, who faces the state’s superintendent of public education and former Republican Joey Hofmeister in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Deidre Deger and Yolanda Flowers, the Democratic candidates in Iowa and Alabama, respectively; Democrat Karnitsa Atwater and Constance Independent each in Tennessee; and independent Deirdre Gilbert in Texas. And in Democratic-leaning Illinois, Beverly Miles will challenge Governor JB Pritzker in the Democratic primary on Tuesday.

DeJear, a businesswoman, and other CNN nominees said fundraising is a challenge.

“We’ve been able to do a lot with a little and I think people are used to seeing women of color and do it a lot with a little,” said DeJear, whose campaign reported $419,000 in bank notes. Earlier this month – Reynolds’ $4.8 million run dwindled. “But if we don’t have to expand ourselves that far with a fully resourced campaign, the sky has no limits.”

She said it was difficult to raise funds after launching her campaign in August because of the local races taking place at the same time and focus on priorities for rebuilding Biden better, adding, “I haven’t seen the support you’d normally see from race, coupled with the fact that I’m a black woman.”

This is DeJear’s second bid for a statewide office. She ran unsuccessfully for Secretary of State in 2018 at the age of 32 but made history as the first black candidate to be nominated by a major political party for a statewide office in Iowa. She pledges to improve the state’s education system and access to mental health care if she is elected governor.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll published in March showed Reynolds ahead of DeJear by 51% to 43%.

Some candidates also say the lack of support from the Democratic Party has been an obstacle.

Johnson said she was disappointed with the state’s Democratic leadership for not supporting a candidate who “made the most important policy recommendation of this century on cannabis in Oklahoma.”

“Our rules are that we don’t support her in the primaries,” Alicia Andrews, chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, told CNN.

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research group focused on women in politics, has consistently found that voters were more comfortable sending women to the state legislature than they were to executive positions.

The statewide races pose severe challenges for black candidates, said CAWP senior researcher Kira Sanbonmatsu.

“Historically, black women have not been recognized as viable candidates in these offices, so their absence in these offices makes it difficult to break them into the next cycle,” Sanbonmatsu said.

She added that “informal vigilantes,” from donors to state party leaders, often stand in the way of black progress.

Connie Johnson, left, and Joey Hoffmeister, right, are both vying for the governorship of Oklahoma.

“Before you throw your hat in the ring, you can test the waters, and try to get a nod from different sources, the power brokers in the state. I think this is one area where black women have been overlooked,” Sanbonmatsu said.

When asked if the bleak midterm map that Democrats face nationwide presents an additional challenge for these candidates, Sanbonmatsu said it depends on the state.

“We have differences out there in terms of partisan dominance in different parts of the country. But certainly, black women candidates, like all candidates, are affected by partisan fluctuations,” she said.

Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Black Civic Engagement, told CNN that it has been difficult for women of color to get support.

“When you look at any study of candidates and all of that, whether you’re vacant, as a black woman or another woman of color, it’s still hard for them to get the resources,” Campbell said. “So, it’s a systemic problem that we have but … in some places I think there is potential to improve because the more we run, the more we push, the more we break those barriers, it will show us that we can move around and make more progress.”

More than a year into the Massachusetts campaign, Danielle Allen ended her bid for governor in February, shortly after state attorney general Maura Healey entered the race.

While Allen acknowledged the challenges that black women — and women in general — face when running for governor, she said she’s glad the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) doesn’t take sides in the primaries and has found her advice helpful for her campaign.

“I am very proud of the fact that in the wake of my nomination for office, three black women have chosen to run for statewide office in Massachusetts, and they have all made it to the polls,” Allen said.

“The black woman has a voice”

In ruby-red South Carolina, which has not been elected Democratic to the governor’s mansion since 1998, state Senator Mia MacLeod ran for governor as a critic of what she called the “old guard” of state policy and on a platform that included better protection and pay workers.

State Senator Mia MacLeod

MacLeod, who has served in the South Carolina legislature since 2011, told CNN she has a track record of winning elections despite well-funded Republican opposition. But her winning streak waned earlier this month after she lost to former US Representative Joe Cunningham in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Prior to her defeat, MacLeod suggested that her clear vision of her ability to be elected was not shared by the mainstream media or the NDP apparatus.

But she acknowledged that the political landscape has changed in some ways.

Jaime Harrison’s candidacy for the US Senate in 2020 – in which he smashed fundraising records before losing to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham by 10 points – was a ray of hope for Black’s statewide candidates in the future.

“We had at least a million registered voters who didn’t vote, and yet Jaime got more votes than any other Democrat who ran. The numbers are there, we just have to engage the voters and mobilize them to get them to the ballot,” MacLeod said. He said.

It’s the Abrams campaign strategy employed in 2018 with a strong focus on registering new voters and energizing core Democrats.

DGA was the largest investor in those 2018 efforts, spending more than $4 million to help Abrams. In this cycle, DGA contributed $1 million to the One Georgia Abrams Leadership Committee. Separately, a group affiliated with the DGA, America Works USA, said it invested $1 million in a nonpartisan advocacy campaign in March that focused on educating Georgians on policy issues.

Yolanda Flowers, left, defeated Malika Sanders-Fortier, right, in the Democratic primary in the Alabama gubernatorial race.

While the DGA is not in favor of the primaries, the group acknowledged that it was aware of public criticism of the largely white Democratic Party apparatus and suggested that it was working to address the concerns. The organization said it engages candidates from the moment they launch their rounds to provide political and financial expertise as well as access to donors.

“We know that black female candidates in particular are facing significant hurdles in their campaign and we feel there is more that can be done across the board to address this. The DGA really feels like part of the solution,” said DGA Executive Director, Noam Lee said.

In Alabama, Flowers made history this month when she won the Democratic nod for governor in the run-off, becoming the first black candidate for governor of a major party in the state. Flowers, who has been deeply vulnerable against incumbent Republican President Kay Ivey, told CNN that her campaign had “suffered a lot” financially, but said the lack of money didn’t stop her from driving or her belief that her presence in the governor’s race was essential. .

“It means that black women have a voice,” she said when asked about the record number of black women running for governor. “We’ve been used to that for a long time.” “This is the right time See God lifts us up not just black women. Women.”

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