Black Candidates In Crowded Races Test Democrats' Racial Equality Push

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fairly difficult
Spurred by recent victories, Democrats could nominate Black candidates in key statewide contests around the country in 2022.
An unprecedented wave of Black candidates are running in statewide Democratic primaries throughout the country, providing a political test for Democrats' party-wide commitment to racial equality heading into the 2022 midterms.

Black candidates have emerged as major contenders for the Democratic nomination in the party's three best opportunities to pick up Senate seats in 2022, and in four of the party's best chances to flip Republican-held gubernatorial mansions. As the party heads into a midterm election where history suggests they will struggle, Black candidates could end up leading the party's ticket in both diversifying Sun Belt states and Midwestern battlegrounds.

A paltry number of Black candidates have won statewide elections. Just two Black men, and no Black women, have ever won gubernatorial elections in the United States ― Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and Doug Wilder in Virginia. Only seven Black people have won election to the U.S. Senate since the end of Reconstruction more than 150 years ago.

But the Democratic Party's full-scale rhetorical embrace of racial justice following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last year, along with recent victories for candidates like Sen. Raphael Warnock (Ga.) and Rep. Lauren Underwood (Ill.), has spurred Black candidates to step forward.

"The reckoning we've had over systemic racism and 400 years of American history has prompted a lot of people who might not otherwise have thought to run for statewide office to do so," said John King, who was education secretary for the last two years of the Obama administration and is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Maryland. "This is a long overdue correction to the historic underrepresentation of Black officials at the state level."

The trend is strong enough that some races are now seeing multiple Black candidates, leading to fears that candidates could split the vote. In other cases, Black candidates are testing…
Kevin Robillard
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