Democratic leaders who lean heavily on black voters are expressing skepticism that black candidates can win statewide races, black candidates, their staff, and strategists said in interviews with Axios.
Amid unprecedented representation by both officeholders and candidates, Axios reported, Democrats party leaders, donors, and pundits are questioning the electability of black candidates.
“Democrats say Democrats love Black women — until it’s time to elect us,” warned Democratic Illinois congressional candidate Kina Collins.
I grew up on the West Side of Chicago with organizing in my blood. My dad's a Teamster. My mom's SEIU.
I've turned activism into action for Black lives, Medicare For All, and to end gun violence.
— Kina Collins for IL7 (@KinaCollinsIL) June 1, 2021
There are currently 57 black members of the House of Representatives — the highest yet — and seven of the 100 most-populous cities in the United States have black female mayors, Axios reports.
The publication notes that there were three black candidates among the primary contestants for the Virginia gubernatorial race and three black candidates running in the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial election.
“Consider this,” wrote longtime Democratic donor Barbara Goldberg Goldman in a December email to party insiders obtained by Axios. “Three African-American males have run statewide for Governor and have lost. This is a fact we must not ignore.”
According to Axios, Goldman’s email was explaining why she had endorsed Tom Perez, the former Democratic National Committee chair, for governor of Maryland, though he is running in a 10-person race that includes three black candidates.
“Which candidate(s) have a better chance in the General election of beating an attractive female [Larry] Hogan team member for whom both Dems and Repubs have expressed genuine likeability [sic],” Goldman, who is also the Maryland Democratic Party deputy treasurer, asked in an email chain, the publication reported.
“Consider this: Three African-American males have run statewide for Governor and have lost. Maryland is not a Blue state. It’s a purple one. This is a fact we must not ignore. In the last 20 years, only eight have been with a Democratic Governor. We need a winning team. IMHO.”
Goldman later told Axios that she regrets her statement, noting that “it neither accurately expresses nor depicts my views, and does not represent my lifelong commitment to supporting Democratic causes and candidates.”
And a spokesman for Perez’s campaign told the publication that the comments are both “hurtful” and “ill-conceived” and “do not reflect the values of our campaign — as evidenced by Tom’s entire career to advance civil rights and expand opportunity.”
“Our campaign is building a geographically, demographically and ideologically inclusive coalition focused on electing a Democratic governor who is ready to serve all Marylanders,” the spokesman added.
Black candidates in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Wisconsin also told Axios that they are “navigating similar racial dynamics,” the publication reported — though black voters are still boosting Democratic elections.
Former President Barack Obama’s Education secretary John King, who is running for Maryland governor, said that Democratic Party insiders have expressed to him, “Oh, well, if there are multiple candidates of color, then it’s impossible for one of them to win.”
“Certainly, people have made that remark to me,” he said.
“In Maryland, we have a very diverse state and a diverse electorate, so we are well-positioned to have our first African American governor,” King told Axios, adding. “Having served in the administration of our first Black president, one would have hoped we’d be further along in these conversations.”
Pennsylvania congressional candidate Summer Lee is running for a seat that has never been held by a woman, the publication reported, noting that she historically won a state congressional race in southwestern Pennsylvania, beating her 20-year incumbent, in 2018.
“It absolutely comes from within the party and from without,” Lee said of electability concerns. “The policies that we lift up are things that bring in more people and engage our base in different ways.”
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