Democratic Party Blocks Black and Brown Candidates from Senate Races

The race for the 2018 Midterm Elections are in full swing. Deadlines to register Senate candidates for the primaries have begun to pass while others in key battleground states are quickly approaching. There are 8 states in which the windows of opportunity to become a Senate candidate close before March 1, 2018. And of these eight states, three are Minority-Majority (Arizona, New Mexico and California), one is close to a 50–50 split (Maryland) and one carries a POC population of over 25% (Tennessee).

This means that in these states, because the white vote is split into 2 parties, voters of color outnumber white voters. If we include people with disabilities, the LGBTQ, the underclass — “minorities” overwhelmingly outnumber normative white Democrats.

Yet still, of 100 seats in the Senate, only 10 are held by people of color. And of these, only 6 are Democrats. So, while people of color dominate the Democratic party and are close to matching their white counterparts in the United States in general, we only comprise 10% of the Senate and approximately 13% of Democratic Senators.

And despite all the rhetoric about giving “minority” Democrats a place at the table in the wake of Alabama, black and brown Democratic candidates are still being told to wait in the kitchen.

Sure, the rhetoric sounds great. Even Tom Perez told the Washington Post, “Let me be clear: We won in Alabama and Virginia because black women led us to victory. Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we can’t take that for granted. Period.”

And since we are well beyond the days where rhetoric is even close to enough, women of color have been coming out with clear demands for more than “voice,” more than representatives that look like us, and more than just token participation.

Kirsten West Savali, for example, writes:

It is no longer enough to trot out black faces with white politics and call it progress.

It is no longer enough to prop up black women in placebo positions of power while the same vulture capitalists hold the purse strings and the same black-robe-wearing white supremacists on the bench hold the prison-door keys. It is no longer enough for Democrats to pretend that “we have a fine home here,” when black women are still made to enter through the back door and disappear when company comes over.

Higher Heights for America’s Glynda Carr similarly emphasizes that Democrats “must not only expect us to come to the polls, but make us decision-makers. When we have a more diverse decision-making table, we make better decisions.”

And while organizations such as Emily’s List and Run for Something are operating as the supposed pathway to Democratic Power, they are functioning to create the illusion that actions are being taken to support black and brown candidates, while these same communities are systematically being denied a seat at the Senate table.

Of the 8 states whose windows for Senate candidate registration close before the first of March:

23 are White

1 is Black

1 is Latino

Of the two candidates of color registered to run in the 2018 Democratic Primaries, one is a community expert with a clear, community-based agenda and a history of doing political work in and for the community (Kevin Deleon — CA). One has limited nonprofit experience, no clear agenda, and no agenda items directly connected to community demands. Both are up against white Democratic incumbents and the multi-million dollar electoral machines that support them.

Even despite the undeniable loyalty and strength of the black vote, and especially the black female vote, the Democratic Party has made it clear: The Senate is for white Democrats and white Democrats only. Correction: The Senate is for white Democrats and a handful of Democrats of Color that will deliver unwavering loyalty to the white and middle-class Democratic agenda.

But mostly, the Senate is just for white people.

Take Arizona, for example. The Grand Canyon State boasts a 66% non-white population. 34% of Arizonans identify as Latino. And all five candidates registered to run in the Democratic Senate Primaries are white. Not only are they white, but they are completely detached from communities of color and the community led political organizations that fight on their behalf.

For example, Democratic Senate candidates registered for the Arizona primaries include Bob Bishop, a white guy that invented the world’s smallest jet; Chris Russell is a super white guy from a town in Washington state with an 86% white population that is running because he is “fed up with both parties’ failure to consider the people in their politics”, and Deedra Abboud — white woman who married into a Muslim family that is on friendly terms with Jeff Flake and law enforcement to target “deadbeat dads.”

In New Mexico, another Latino led Minority-Majority State, there is no Democrat registered to challenge the fleece-vest sporting white centrist Martin Heinrich.

And in Maryland, the home of Freddie Gray, the frontrunner is Ben Cardin incumbent Caucasian authority. He is being challenged by 2 white males with no established website or political presence and Debbie Wilson, the only black candidate registered to run. Wilson lost a House Race against an incumbent in 2016, has no website and her experience in the community is limited to education opportunities and general advocacy for low income rural residents. She has not taken a stand on key issues, has no experience in urban based community-centric political reform, and does not carry a community agenda with her.

Despite the rhetoric, the Democratic Party is actively refusing to register candidates of color in time to run for the Senate during the 2018 Primaries. If communities of color miss the opportunity to register and run during the primaries, they will be unable to participate as candidates during the 2018 midterms in November. And if candidates of color aren’t able to run for the Senate in 2018, we will be positioned once again to be taken advantage by a white led Democratic party that wants our votes but doesn’t want to give us political representation in exchange.

If Senators of color carrying community agendas aren’t allowed to run, they can’t be elected. White Democrats in power and their political funders are very aware of this. They are counting on communities of color to be asleep. If we want a seat at the table, we need to wake up and we need to wake up fast.

The Resistance can clamor that voice is power and protest is power — but at the end of the day power is power. And that power, right now, lies in the hands of the Senate. We have an opportunity to take that power, and a responsibility to do so aggressively. It’s time for communities to mobilize qualified candidates that represent us optically, have histories of political work in our communities, and carry our agendas. It’s time to get their names on the ballot. And it’s time to mobilize full support for them.

White Democrats are trying to maintain full control of the party and itss people while still pimping us for votes on election day. Communities of color have made it clear that this will no longer be tolerated. Now, we need to do the work to make sure we put those words into action. We must demand a seat at and and all tables, but most importantly we need to do the work to take those seats. If we don’t have candidates registered to run for those seats, we can’t take them. And if we don’t have seats in the Senate, we don’t truly have political power.

People of color are the base of the Democratic Party. We should represent a majority of Senate Democrats, but the Democratic Party refuses to give us fair representation. It’s time to stop demanding and start acting. Candidates of color can still register. We still have time to mobilize campaigns for the majority of the remaining Democratic Primaries. We can change the color of the Senate, but we have to act fast.

To learn more about Dr. GS Potter and the Strategic Institute for Intersectional Policy (SIIP), visit:



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SIIP is dedicated to designing strategies to counter political obstacles faced by the most brutally targeted communities in the United States