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2024 could be a historic year for Black women Senate candidates

There could be more Black women elected to the Senate in one year than have served in the entire history of the United States.

By Emily Singer - May 23, 2023
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Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) gives remarks during a Democratic watch party on Tuesday, November 08, 2022 at The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Downtown Wilmington, Delaware. (Saquan Stimpson/ZUMA Press Wire/Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) gives remarks on Tuesday, November 08, 2022 in Downtown Wilmington, Delaware. (Saquan Stimpson/ZUMA Press Wire/Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

The 2024 election brings with it the possibility that more Black women could be elected to the U.S. Senate in one year than have served in all of American history.

Just two Black women have ever served in the Senate in the chamber’s more than 200-year history: former Sens. Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

In 2024, however, three Black women, all of whom are Democrats, are top contenders in open-seat Senate contests: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks in Maryland, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee in California, and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester in Delaware.

The races are rated solid Democratic by nonpartisan political handicappers; they all take place in states President Joe Biden carried by double-digit margins in 2020. If the candidates win their primaries, they are all but assured to win the November general elections.

“We are seeing more Black women run for office than ever before because they, as Shirley Chisholm advised, are ‘tired of being on the menu,'” EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler, whose organization helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, told the American Independent Foundation. “The country not only needs their votes but their voices and leadership in the halls of government and places of power to create the truly representative democracy that we claim as our strength.”

The best opportunity for a Black woman to ascend to the Senate appears to be in Delaware, where Democratic Sen. Tom Carper on Monday announced he’s not seeking a fifth term.

Carper endorsed Blunt Rochester, leading Politico to declare her the “immediate favorite” in the race to succeed him.

“You’ve been patient in waiting for me to get out of the way. I hope that you run,” Carper told Blunt Rochester, who if elected would be not only Delaware’s first Black senator, but also its first female senator.

CNN reported that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had already reached out to Blunt Rochester about running.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary is expected to be the next senator from Delaware, a heavily Democratic state that voted for hometown President Joe Biden by 19 points in 2020.

The two other open-seat races in which Black women are running have competitive Democratic primary fields.

In California Lee faces a crowded field in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein that includes Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter.

Feinstein announced she is not running for reelection, but has said she will serve the duration of her term. However, Democratic elected officials have begun to question her fitness for office and are urging her to resign after her long absence from the Senate due to complications of shingles and other health issues.

In the event that Feinstein doesn’t finish her term, California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised to appoint a Black woman to serve the remainder of the term. Lee said that if Newsom chose to appoint her, she’d accept.

In Maryland, Alsobrooks is participating in a competitive Democratic primary to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. U.S. Rep. David Trone announced he is running, while Rep. Jamie Raskin said he is mulling a bid and will make a decision over the summer.

Alsobrooks has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, which stressed the importance of having more Black women in the Senate.

“The United States has only had two Black women to serve in the Senate in the 236 years of its existence,” the group’s Butler said. “It would mean that the contributions, leadership, and patriotism of the women elected would be recognized and the promise of justice for all will mean more to a generation of Black women who will finally be able to see themselves reflected in the highest levels of government.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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