Black Women Running for Senate Have Increased Now More than Ever, Although Underrepresentation Still Persists, According to New Report

by Xara Aziz
Office of Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester

Following the announcement that Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) would not seek re-election in 2024, dozens are now calling the state’s sole member of the House, Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, to run for the seat. She now joins a slew of other Black women who will be contending for open seats in the Senate and is generating nationwide conversations about the role Black women play in politics.

Blunt Rochester, Carper’s former intern, became the first woman to serve in Congress from Delaware in 2017 and is “currently one of 28 Black women members [and] now one of the likeliest prospects to ensure that the absence of Black women in the U.S. Senate does not continue into 2025,” according to a report in Forbes magazine.

“No Black woman has served in the U.S. Senate since Vice President Kamala Harris’ departure in January 2021,” the report adds. “And Harris, who was the only Black woman senator for four years, was sworn in to the nation’s upper legislative chamber 24 years after the first Black woman entered the U.S. Senate. Together, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and Kamala Harris of California represent the entirety of Black women senators in U.S. history. The 2024 election already appears poised to change that.”

The number of Black women who have run for Senate seats swelled over the past 20 years, although “no more than one Black woman has won a major-party nomination for an open-seat Senate contest in any single cycle during the same period.”

Last year, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley became the only Black woman senate nominee competing for an open seat. However, she did not win her contest, which would have flipped the North Carolina seat from Republican to Democrat.

Representative Barbara Lee, who is campaigning to become the second Black woman senator from California, is not shaken by doubts about her being able to win.

“And even though there are no African American women in the United States Senate,” she said in her announcement video, “We won’t let that stop us either.” The highly-accomplished and honorable legislator has a record of institutional leadership and served as California State Legislature for almost a decade.

There is also Angela Alsobrooks who is bidding for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat. Should she win, the former state’s attorney and current Prince George’s county executive would be the first Black woman elected statewide in Maryland and the second woman senator from the state.

“Look, I get it. There aren’t a lot of people like me in the U.S. Senate,” she said in her announcement video. “People who live like, who think like, and who look like the people they are supposed to represent.”

Black women in the U.S. only make up about 8% of the total population, but if Black women can win at least three seats in the 100-member U.S. Senate, it could be the beginning of better representation in Congress.

Research shows the substantive impact of Black women officeholders in shaping policy agendas, debates, and outcomes in ways informed by their distinct lived experiences and perspectives,” the report concludes. “The democratic value of that representation should be among the considerations made in selecting our next class of senators so that Black women can take their rightful seat at the table, no folding chairs necessary.”

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