Black women showing up to offices statewide have a moment

New York Attorney General Letitia James presents the findings of an independent investigation into several women’s accusations that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed them on August 3, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado / Getty Images)

Last week, Letitia “Tish” James announced his candidacy for governor of New York. The sitting attorney general is entering what is expected to be an overcrowded Democratic governor’s primary. If elected, James would be the first black woman to be elected governor in the country’s history. However, she’s not the only one in her quest to become the state’s first black female ruler, as five other people have their sights set on the governor’s mansion.

Here’s what you need to know about black women and elected office statewide.

Black women are woefully under-represented in state executive offices across the country

The Center for American Women and Politics and Higher Heights finds that less than 2% of black women hold this position in the United States. Of the 310 state executive offices nationwide, six black women currently hold this position. They are: Jacques, Sheila olivier, who is the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, Sandra kennedy, who is the commissioner of the company in Arizona, Sabine Matos, the Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, Juliana Stratton, who is the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, and Shirley weber, who is the Secretary of State for California.

All of these women are Democrats. To date, 17 black women have held elected positions statewide. To be sure, women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are often absent from leadership positions across the state. Only 94 women in the country are currently elected or appointed to these positions.

Black women run for elected office statewide

Stacey Abrams
(Photo by Jessica McGowan / Getty Images)

Maybe inspired by Stacey Abrams‘2018 campaign to be the first black female governor, others are following her lead and mounting their campaigns for the 2022 election cycle. Abrams has provided a role model for other black women – who are also highly accomplished political leaders – to use as a model for their own governorship activities.

Indeed, six black women ran for governor in 2018. The booming electoral cycle of 2022 already has six black candidates for governor and it was not until October 2021. In addition to Tish James of New York, Danielle Allen (D-MA), Deidre DeJear (D-IA), Deirdre Gilbert (D-TX), Connie johnson (D-OK), and Mia McLeod (D-DSC) have announced their candidacies. While each woman faces unique challenges and opportunities in varying political contexts in their respective states, they all share the opportunity to become the first (and possibly, second and third …) black woman to occupy. the highest elected office in their states. In addition, they will likely be joined by other black female candidates who could herald the continuation of the 2022 electoral cycle.

Winning a statewide elected post can be tough for black women

Jennifer Carroll Foy and Jennifer McClellan
Virginia Governor’s Race (LR) Candidates Jennifer Carroll Foy and Jennifer McClellan. (Photo: Getty Images)

My research on black female candidates demonstrates that this group of candidates for office must overcome deeply racialized and gender barriers to be successful in elections. In short, the misogynist is very real for black candidates. The women in my research document experiences of sexual harassment during the election campaign, difficulties in fundraising, little or no support from their political party, media bias, lack of access to political networks, criticism of their appearances, as well as racialized political hierarchies.

These obstacles are roadblocks for some and obstacles with which others are summarily confronted. Political science research also notes that voters hold different opinions about black female candidates and access them based on racialized and gender stereotypes or prejudices. Black women are the strongest supporters of black candidates for election. Indeed, black women see themselves as politically closest to those who share the same racial-gender identity, then move towards their common racial or gender identities in terms of political proximity.

Relying primarily on black female voters – who, in fairness, outperform nearly all other ethno-racial groups and genders in political participation – is not a winning strategy as they represent only less than 9% of the population. American and are often much less certain. populations in states (eg, Maine, North Dakota, Alaska).

Black Women Have the Tools to Win and Govern Successfully

Melanie Campbell, CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, speaks during a press conference outside the AFL-CIO headquarters July 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

While the game may be stacked against black women seeking elected office statewide, research indicates they can win. In 2020, black women won offices statewide and many more were nominated by their party. Research documents how black women win elections despite the challenges they face. Pearl Dowe notes that black female candidates often rely on Indigenous networks and communities to support their electoral candidacies. Organizations such as Black Girl Vote, Inc and Black Women’s Roundtable are just two examples of black women’s civic organizations that support black women as political actors.

Additionally, once elected, black women draw on their lived experiences, culture and background, academic and professional expertise, and racial and gender identities to form political coalitions and adopt intersectional politics that embrace includes multiple marginalized groups. They have a distinct voice in politics and often raise issues that others ignore. Policies like the CROWN Act simply wouldn’t have happened without black women in state and local government.

While we can’t predict how many black women will win their gubernatorial races in 2022, we do know that one black woman will serve as Virginia’s lieutenant governor – either Haala ayala (From where Seductive sears (R). These two women will undoubtedly increase the number of black women in leadership positions statewide. Stacey Abrams’ status as the only black woman to win a major party gubernatorial nomination could be erased this electoral cycle.

If Tish James and the other gubernatorial candidates have anything to say about it, Abrams will be the first and not the only black woman to hold this honor.


Dr Nadia E. Brown is Professor of Government and Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program at Georgetown University.

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