6 wins for Black women in midterm elections that might’ve gone under the radar

While some major Black female candidates failed to pull out victories on Nov. 8, there were other wins to celebrate for candidates up and down the ballot.

Despite months of heavy campaigning and the hundreds of millions of dollars raised this past election cycle, major high-profile Black women on the ballot came out unsuccessful. Most notably, Stacey Abrams lost her second bid to become governor of Georgia and the potential to make history as the first Black woman governor in U.S. history. 

Additionally, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., failed to clinch a win in her race for the U.S. Senate. And Cheri Beasley, whose race for Senate in North Carolina largely flew under the radar, put up a competitive fight but, ultimately, was unsuccessful at her attempt to make history in the politically ‘purple’ state. 

While some major Black female candidates failed to pull out victories on Nov. 8, there were certainly other wins to celebrate for candidates up and down the ballot.

“Black women were amongst the most effective, whether they won or lost, in standing up against Trumpism and extremism, and were, more than other candidates, targeted with an onslaught of dark money attacks,” Aimee Allison, founder of the political advocacy group, She the People, told theGrio. “We had some heartbreaking losses, but also some successes. And these Black women have demonstrated that they can, all of them, build a multiracial set of voters.”

Here’s a roundup of some of those election highlights.

Summer Lee becomes the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Rep-elect Summer Lee talks to the press outside her polling station at the Paulson Recreation Center after voting with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey on May 17, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

While most eyes were on the high-profile Senate contest between now-Democratic Senator-elect John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, Summer Lee cracked the glass ceiling in Pennsylvania after winning her U.S. House race in the state’s 12th Congressional District. 

When she’s sworn in this upcoming January, Lee, who on Sunday was among several newly elected progressive Democrats who attended freshman orientation on Capitol Hill, will soon caucus alongside popular progressive voices in the Democratic Party like U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar.

Before her historic election, Lee, 34, served in the state House of Representatives since 2019 and as an organizer who advocated for a higher minimum wage and other racial justice initiatives in Pennsylvania. Lee won a tough Democratic primary for the 12th District with less than 1% of the vote between her and her opponent. In the general election, despite running in a traditionally safe, blue district, Lee faced over a million dollars worth of attack ads from the campaign arm of the pro-Israel group, AIPAC. 

Allison of She the People believes that polling data will show that Lee’s organizing and campaigning in her hometown of Pittsburgh played a crucial role in Fetterman securing the Senate seat for Democrats. “Summer Lee’s leadership and the organizers under her in Pittsburgh, which has had a Black and brown population that is typically ignored by both parties … was a contribution to the statewide win,” said Allison.

Emilia Sykes becomes the third Black woman to represent Ohio’s House delegation

Rep.-Elect Emilia Sykes (D-Ohio) arrives at an orientation meeting in the U.S. Capitol Building on November 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Emilia Sykes’ win in Ohio’s 13th Congressional District now means that three Black women will be serving in the state’s U.S. House delegation (along with U.S. Reps. Joyce Beatty and Shontel Brown). 

Similar to Summer Lee’s congressional race, millions of dollars were spent in attack ads against Sykes, most notably from Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who desperately wants a Republican majority in the House so that he can become House speaker. Allison called the attack ads “racist and sexist” and said they were riddled with “misinformation”

Allison said that what was significant about Sykes’ campaign is the fact that she “leaned into” a solid Democratic issue this election cycle—reproductive rights—while also championing public safety, which has been heavily used by Republicans to put Democrats on the defensive. Allison also argued that Sykes’ performance in the state also helped contribute to Democrat Tim Ryan’s competitive performance in his failed Senate contest against J.D. Vance.

“It’s remarkable,” said Allison. “So the story about, hey, this is a red state, there’s no way the Democrats can win … even in a place like Ohio where, you know, the Black population is less than 15%, Black women still fulfill a pivotal role.”

Andrea Campbell is elected Massachusett’s top prosecutor

Andrea Campbell, incoming attorney general, waves to attendees of the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s Election Night in the Grand Ballroom at Copley Hotel on Tuesday. (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Andrea Campbell was elected as the state of Massachusetts’ first Black female attorney general and the first Black woman ever elected to statewide office. Before her historic win, Campbell served on the Boston City Council for six years. The 40-year-old is only the fourth Black woman to ever serve as a state attorney general. 

“[Campbell] represents one of the poorest parts of Boston [and] poorest parts of the state,” said Allison. “She’s somebody who has a long history of activism and local policymaking criminal justice reform, she’s a very exciting candidate.”

California’s Malia Cohen elected to run the fourth-largest economy in the world

Malia Cohen
Malia Cohen, California state controller-elect. (Photo By Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

California voters elected Malia Cohen as the state’s new controller, a position that oversees the world’s fourth-largest economy. Before her victory in California, Cohen served as the state’s top tax official.

“She’s the one who writes the checks; an incredibly important, influential role in California,” highlighted Allison, who said this “very important” race was “kind of under the radar.”

“[Cohen] is only the seventh Black woman in history to hold this county executive statewide office,” she added.

Black female congresswomen reelected

Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), whose son was killed by gun violence, speaks during an event before voting on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in front of the House of Representatives on June 24, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

There were a number of Black female members of Congress who were elected for another two years — something Allison noted should not be overlooked this election cycle. “In the balance of power, Black women were pivotal and are pivotal as leaders who are affecting the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats,” she said.  

Allison highlighted the wins of Reps. Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts, Lisa Blunt Rochester in Delaware, Jahana Hayes in Connecticut and Lauren Underwood in Illinois. Congresswoman Lucy McBath faced redistricting challenges in her Georgia district, but ultimately decided to run, and eventually win, in a different district. 

“[While] people are focused on Marjorie Taylor Greene getting reelected …. Lucy McBath is doing a lot of work to elevate other Black women as candidates and elected officials,” said Alison. 

Black female candidates “defended their seats against “a lot of extremism that’s happening in their states or their districts,” noted Allison. “I’m really proud of the contribution that Black women have made in winning and in defending their seats.” 

The power of Black women was felt this election cycle

Stacey Abrams Governor Georgia
Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams arrives to speak during the annual North America’s Building Trades Union’s Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel on April 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Though there were some “heartbreaking” losses, said Allison, Black women on the ballot have a lot to be proud of despite criticisms that the Democratic Party did not invest enough money and support into some of their campaigns. 

“Val Demings, the Cheri Beasleys, the Stacey Abramses, they did everything right, but they needed a Democratic Party that came in earlier and work consistently and strongly to support them,” she said. “They weren’t able to get that this time, but the work that they did will advance the political power, not just for Black women, but for the issues that we care about.

Similarly, Maya Wiley, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told theGrio: “It would be a mistake for anyone of any party to write off these powerful Black women, to write off Black candidates ever, and to suggest that anyone who runs great races, [because] all three of whom ran great races, all three of them showed they have what it takes, and all three of them aren’t going away,” said Wiley.

“If we’re not continuing to invest in our pipeline and our leadership … I think they’re going to start to learn that that’s not a winning combination.”

Wiley said Abrams, Demings and Beasley especially proved that they “have what it takes not only to run great campaigns but to have policy solutions that matter for our people.

“The proof point is that they have a tremendous amount of support, and they’ve done it by actually meeting people in the streets, meeting them where they are understanding their problems and bringing solutions,” she added. “We’re not saying goodbye to any of these powerful leaders who ran for office and who will not disappear on the landscape of a just and fair country for black people.

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