Following Republican candidate Roy Moore’s defeat in the Alabama Senate special election in December, a record number of Black women are running for office across the state. Black women, who are staunch Democratic voters, now want to be on the ballot.
More than 35 Black women have launched campaigns or reelection runs, an unprecedented number the Democratic Party has never seen before in the red state.
“Alabama is not a state that is known for electing women to office, so, in some sense, this is surprising, historic and much needed,” Richard Fording, a professor of public policy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, told NBC News.
In December’s election, 98 percent of Black women voted for Doug Jones, the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama in 25 years.
“I don’t know if it was Doug Jones as much as it was Roy Moore himself lighting the fire under African Americans and African American women,” Cheri Gardner, a Democratic candidate for circuit clerk in Jefferson County, told NBC News.
Opposition to Moore motivated the voting bloc of women.
Alabama State Rep. Laura Hall told DiversityInc in December that for Black voters, the racist rhetoric and sexual assault allegations surrounding Moore “was major.”
Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), a four-term congresswoman, is running for re-election this fall. Many of the Black women now running for office cited her as a trailblazer.
“It’s so important that we step up, that we show the nation that we can lead,” said Jameria Moore, an attorney running for a judgeship on Jefferson Co. Probate Court. “That, here in Alabama, we’re ready to lead our state into the future.”
Democratic Party and Support for Black Women Candidates
Last May, more than 20 Black female elected officials, activists and community leaders came together in solidarity to voice their concern that Black women are being overlooked in regard to leadership within the Democratic Party.
Despite the fact that Black women have helped carry the Democratic Party to a string of post-2016 election victories, some believe that Black women candidates, in general, haven’t been receiving sufficient support from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the party’s House campaign arm.
Last week, the DCCC added Lauren Underwood, a nurse who won her primary outside Chicago, as a House candidate to the 24 others in Red to Blue, which gives candidates organizational and fundraising support.
Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of the organization Higher Heights for America, told USA Today she has had to alert the DCCC to viable Black women candidates they overlooked in some key races.
She also said the DCCC has been slow to support candidates like Underwood. Higher Heights endorsed Underwood last year. The organization supports Black women candidates and more Black political involvement.
“They weren’t willing to jump on board early,” Peeler-Allen said of Underwood’s race. “We just keep saying, ‘You can’t count Black women out just because they’re running in a district that may not look like them, or they’re running up against someone who has more name recognition”
Meredith Kelly, DCCC spokeswoman, said the organization has “put a premium on promoting diversity amongst our staff, consultants and candidates this election cycle,” and is “proud to be working with a historic number of women and diverse candidates.”
The DNC said it has invested in the “campaigns of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, and its sponsorship of the ‘Power Rising Summit,’ which supports Black women in politics,” USA Today reports.
“The DNC knows that when we lift up Black candidates and invest in Black communities, Democrats are successful at the ballot box,” said Michael Tyler, a DNC spokesman.
Many candidates will continue to monitor the actions of the DCCC and DNC. In a campaign statement, Michelle Laws, a former executive director of the NAACP’s state chapter and candidate for the 4th District of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh and Chapel Hill, said the following in her campaign statement:
“There are many Black women around this country who are no longer willing to be the mules of the party, doing the hard work on the ground, and receiving very little in return in terms of support and endorsement of the party to serve in key leadership positions.”