Black Female Political Candidates Are Beating the Odds to Find Electoral Success

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley

African-American women are often the backbone of political campaigns, but the number of elected black women doesn’t reflect our passionate political activism.

Black women are often the backbone of political campaigns—making calls, managing offices and registering voters. And we show up at the polls. In the last two presidential elections, the turnout percentage of African-American women was greater than all other demographic groups. In Virginia, for instance, Gov. Terry McAuliffe owes black women, in particular, for his win in a year when President Barack Obama was not on the ballot. Yet the numbers, in terms of black women in elected positions, don’t reflect black women’s passionate political activism.

Is it a matter of cultural stereotypes? Is it harder to raise the money crucial to any successful campaign? Is reluctance of black voters to support black women an unexpected hurdle?

Why this is so and how the numbers can change were topics at the recent National Association of Black Journalists convention in Boston. At a roundtable on African-American female voters andleaders hosted by the Democratic National Committee and EMILY’s List, women shared obstacles they had encountered on the way to electoral success and reasons why the struggles are far from over. They also addressed the pivotal role African-American female leaders and voters will play in the 2014 midterm elections and in the future of an increasingly diverse country.

Sharing notes and strategies as I moderated the panel were Ayanna Pressley, the first woman of color elected to the Boston City Council; Charniele Herring, a delegate and minority whip in the Virginia Statehouse; and Jessica Byrd, manager of state strategies at EMILY’s List, which is dedicated to recruiting, training and electing pro-choice Democratic women at all levels.

“Without speaking with too wide a brush,” said Pressley, an obstacle for black women becoming candidates is “that we don’t tend to operate with the same sense of entitlement. There is this ‘I don’t know enough, I need one more degree. I need to have one more baby.’”

In explaining her own success, which includes being the top vote-getter in her last several races, Pressley said she could credit “the typical things,” including having a “message that resonated” and “a strong field plan.” In Boston, though, the conflict was less about partisan politics than race, she said. “The codified question was, ‘Can Ayanna Pressley appeal to traditional voters?’ or ‘Can this black woman represent an entire city?’

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Source: The Root | 

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