The US presidential election may be dominated by two older white men, but away from the battle for the White House a record number of women of color are running for Congress in 2020 – as US politics continues to be dragged, slowly, towards being representative of the country’s population.

In November, 117 women of color are running for Congress as Democrats or Republicans. And a record 298 women in total are running for the House of Representatives on a major party ticket, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

The new high builds on 2018’s midterm elections, when a historic number of women won seats in the House. Among that number are 61 Black women, 32 Latina women, and six Native American women – record numbers for each group.

In the Senate, 20 women are running as Democrats or Republicans, a decrease from 2018, but overall, the US is seeing a rising trend.

“This year’s numbers are a positive sign that 2018 wasn’t necessarily an anomaly,” said Kelly Dittmar,director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics.

“What this year also points to positively is a continued diversification of the women who are running for office and who are getting nominations.”

Women are almost 50% of Democratic nominees this year, Dittmar said. They make up a much smaller proportion of Republican nominees – although the GOP has seen a spike in female candidates compared with previous years.

Here are just a few of the women to watch in November:

Candace Valenzuela

If Candace Valenzuela can win in Texas’s 24th congressional district, she would become the first Black Latina in Congress. The district has been represented by a Republican since 2005, but Democrats have a real chance of flipping it in November.

“We’re seeing trailblazing women of color step up and run for office all across the country,” Valenzuela told the Guardian.

“But women like me aren’t running to be the ‘first’, we’re running to serve our communities, by lowering healthcare costs, stopping the spread of this virus, and getting folks back to work safely.”

A former school board representative, Valenzuela has been endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and progressive and centrist Democrats alike. She faces the Republican candidate Beth Van Duyne, whom Trump has endorsed.

“I ran for my local school board to ensure every north Texan has access to the opportunities that enabled me to overcome childhood homelessness and become the first in my family to go to college,” Valenzuela said.

“As I fought for my community, I saw the opportunities that lifted me up were, and continue to be, under attack by Donald Trump and the corporate special interests that dominate his administration.”

In a campaign ad, Valenzuela recalls sleeping in a children’s swimming pool outside a gas station after the family fled domestic abuse. She believes she can better represent people who might be struggling.

“It’s time that the folks in power reflect the communities they serve. As we see more women and women of color running for and winning seats in office, we’re seeing the focus of our elected officials shift towards working families and the challenges they face.”

Candace Valenzuela (@candacefor24)

My congressman has been a politician since before I was homeless, sleeping in a kiddie pool outside a gas station.

Now I’m running to unseat him. #TX24

Join us: https://t.co/XxjdILwpnEpic.twitter.com/04wqgNuKnP

June 25, 2019

Marquita Bradshaw

Marquita Bradshaw’s victory in Tennessee’s Senate Democratic primary was scarcely believable, given the relative pittance she spent during her campaign. Bradshaw spent less than $10,000 – James Mackler, an attorney endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, spent $1.5m.

She became the first Black woman to be a major party nominee for statewide office in Tennessee, and the only Black woman running as a Democrat or Republican for Senate.

“Black women have been the heart of the Democratic party for years,” Bradshaw told the Guardian.

“We vote our values but with the increasing social tensions and awareness, Black women knew it was time to step into our power. For too long, we have been kept out of the conversation.

“But we are living the issues – racism, classism, sexism. I am living the issues. Black women are the cornerstones of their communities, active in churches, schools, healthcare. Our voices need to be heard and collectively, we are taking the leap.”

Bradshaw is an environmental activist who supports the progressive Green New Deal, and she said the toxic damage from a military depot in her hometown of Memphis birthed her activism.

For all the progress in making Congress more diverse, women still only make up about 25% of the body – something Bradshaw said must change.

“It is necessary for the demographics of the Senate to represent the demographics of the country. It’s the only way to level the playing field,” she said.

“Women experience the world in different ways than men. We are the caretakers and nurturers. We will introduce bills that support the environmental, educational and economic wellbeing of our country. It’s all connected. We can’t address one without the other and we can’t fix one without fixing them all.”

Bradshaw faces another uphill battle in November. Her Republican opponent, Bill Hagerty, has tied his fortunes to Donald Trump in the election – the president won Tennessee by 26 points in 2016. The last Democrat elected to the US Senate in Tennessee was Al Gore in 1990.

Cori Bush

Cori Bush in St Louis, Missouri.
Cori Bush in St Louis, Missouri. Photograph: Joe Martinez/The Guardian

Bush, a nurse and ordained pastor, broke a decades-long legacy when she defeated Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary for Missouri’s 1st congressional district. Clay has represented the district since 2001, having taken over the seat from his father, Bill Clay, who had been in office since 1969.

Bush rose to prominence in Missouri as an activist against police brutality in Ferguson, after Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer in 2014. In an interview with the Guardian in August, Bush said she feared for the safety of her children following the history of police killings of Black people.

“With the climate of our country and our world I worry about my children. My son is 20 years old, he is taller than me. He’s a black boy. I worry about [him], every single day. Every minute of the day. I’m not exaggerating,” Bush said.

Described as a “true progressive” by Bernie Sanders, Bush is an advocate for universal healthcare, and for defunding the police.

Medicare for All – I know that is really not one of Joe Biden’s priorities … but I am going to continue to fight for it because I believe that is right: you breathe, you deserve healthcare,” Bush told the Guardian in August.

Bush has shunned corporate political action committee (Pac) money in favor of individual donations and is expected to sweep to victory in Missouri’s 1st district, which has voted Democratic for seven decades.

Christina Hale

Christina Hale, a Cuban American, finds herself in a rare race in Indiana: she is a woman running against a woman to replace a woman – Susan Brooks, a Republican who is not seeking re-election.

Brooks won by 13 points in 2018, in the historically Republican fifth district, but the Cook Political Report rates the seat – with its large number of the sort of college-educated white people who have been turned off by Trump – as a toss-up this year.

Hale is a former member of the Indiana house of representatives who struggled to make ends meet after becoming a single mother at 19 years old. She has attributed some of her success to her being able to enroll her son in a childcare program in Indiana, and expanding childcare and early childhood education is one of her priorities.

Hale faced criticism from challengers in the primary for not being progressive enough but she has said her willingness to work across party lines is a strength.

“If elected, I’m determined to look for people on the other side of the aisle,” she told a group of business leaders in September. “No one party has all the good ideas.”

Hale’s race has attracted attention, and money, from Democrats nationally, and she has been endorsed by the Latino Victory Project, Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren, among others.

Teresa Leger Fernandez

With New Mexico’s first and second congressional districts being all-female races, the state will have an all-female delegation to the House if Leger Fernandez can win the third congressional district in November. If all three Democratic candidates win their House contests, then the entire delegation would be women of color.

Leger Fernandez, a progressive endorsed by Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among others, is a lawyer who has represented tribes, minority-owned businesses, and community organizations. She supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal – litmus tests for progressives – and is seeking to represent a district that is 40% Latino and 20% Native American.

“In New Mexico, we recognize there’s nothing to gain in demonizing an other,” Leger Fernandez told the New York Times this year.

“It’s clear that voters liked that I am a Latina, based in the land and respectful of the land, and have complete acknowledgment of how we are different and that can be celebrated,” she said.

 

Original Link:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/oct/01/women-of-color-congress-us-elections-2020

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