Women in politics are breaking barriers and setting records left and right in 2020, amid unprecedented circumstances that have shaped national conversations and altered the ways that elections are administered and campaigns are run. Most recently, a piece in Reuters shared that a record number of Black women are set to run for Congress in 2020 based on data gathered by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP).
Deadlines to file to run for office have now passed in all 50 states in the United States. As Reuters reported, nationwide, 122 Black women have filed to run for congressional seats. Of these 122 Black women, 60 are still in the running to be nominees.
According to CAWP, the number of Black women filing to run for congressional seats has risen continuously since 2012, at which time 48 Black women filed to run. Just two years ago, when women made history as candidates and victors in the 2018 midterm election, 80 Black women filed to run for the U.S. House. Of these 80 women, 41 nominees and 22 winners emerged.
As Reuters highlighted, current social, political, and economic circumstances have shed light on why the presence of Black women candidates and officeholders is so significant. The public health crisis that is gripping the nation has disproportionately impacted women, particularly women of color. Likewise, the George Floyd protests have prompted national discussions about systemic racism and oppression and have reinforced the importance of considering intersectionality in social justice movements. Consequently, the value of amplifying the voices of historically marginalized groups in politics cannot be overstated.
Many of the Black women who have emerged as 2020 candidates and nominees have emphasized the ways in which they seek to bring their unique perspectives and experiences to politics while also inspiring others to do the same. Pam Keith, who is running for Congress and is on the ballot in Florida’s August 18 Democratic primary said, “You don’t know what it looks like to have powerful Black women in Congress until you see powerful Black women in Congress.”
Although Black women have gained considerable ground as candidates and officeholders in the United States, it is worth noting that they continue to be underrepresented in the spaces where decisions are being made. Presently, just 48 of the 127 women or 37.8% serving in the 116th U.S. Congress are women of color. This pattern of underrepresentation persists at the state level as well.
In spite of the issue of underrepresentation, the record number of Black women seeking public office in 2020 signifies that these candidates are determined to change the landscape and composition of our government. Rather than depressing civic engagement, it appears that events in recent months and years have had the opposite effect and sparked greater participation.
Sources: Reuters 7/27/2020; Center for American Women and Politics 7/27/20; Higher Heights Leadership Fund, CAWP, Rutgers University 2019; Pam Keith for Congress