Black Women Are Running For Office In Alabama At A Historic Rate — & This Might Only Be The Start
Across the United States, citizens are mobilizing to run for elected positions, often citing the the increasingly polarized political climate. Such is the case in the southern state of Alabama, where more black women are running for office than ever before.
"The tide is shifting, and these southern states are showing the rest of the country, again as they always have, that we can lead, and we can change the world," Alabama native Rhonda Briggins, co-founder of VoteRunLead, told CNN. "If you look at history, especially Alabama history, civil rights history, women have always led those charges, and have been the ones working very diligently, behind the scenes, organizing."
More than 70 black women are currently campaigning for public office in the state, which made headlines last fall for a highly-publicized special senatorial campaign between candidate Roy Moore and now-Senator Doug Jones.
"Now that storm is brewing, I think it's only going to grow," Briggins told CNN. "They've turned these cliches into a reality, of 'Black Girl Magic.' I think people really believe that. I think people really believe they can make a difference, and all you have to do is put yourself out there and do it."
According to CNN, 18 black women are running for circuit, district and probate judge positions in Jefferson County alone. Back in December, during the special election, Jefferson County voters firmly sided with Democrat Doug Jones, giving him 68 percent of the vote, and Moore only 31 percent. In total, 98 percent of black women voters supported Jones at the polls. After his win, Jones became the first Democrat to represent Alabama in over 20 years.
Black women candidates aren't in facing Alabama voters alone. Some organizations are working to train first-time candidates, equipping them with essential skills to steer them toward success. And if the more than 70 women running for office are any indication, those programs seem to be on the right track. Emerge Alabama, a program that helps prepare Democratic hopefuls for campaigning, trained at least three of those Jefferson County women, CNN reports.
"Alabama is not a state that is known for electing women to office, so, in some sense, this is surprising, historic and much needed," Richard Fording, a professor of public policy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, told The Hill back in March, when it became clear that many black democrat candidates were signing up to campaign.
Alabama is not alone. According to blackwomeninpolitics.com, there are 603 black women running for office in 2018, across the United States. The website, which maintains an ongoing database, reports that 97 are running for federal seats, 215 for state seats, and 267 for local seats. Of those numbers, 211 are incumbents, whereas a whopping 392 are challengers.
Indeed, black women candidates have made many headlines in recent months. Last month, Stacey Abrams, a black woman politician in Georgia, made history when she became the first black woman to be nominated for governor by a major political party. But that wasn't just a first for Georgia — it was a first for the entire United States.
"When the world said 'no,' you joined our campaign," Abrams wrote in a victory post on Facebook after winning the primary. "When the pundits pushed back, you shared our vision with your friends. And when logic whispered that what we've accomplished could never be because history had never made it so, you imagined more for Georgia."
Since the 2016 election, women have been declaring political campaigns at a rapid rate, many citing the Donald Trump campaign and its rhetoric as their motivation. POLITICO reported in March that by the beginning of that month, nearly 600 women had declared intentions to run for either the House, the Senate, or for governor, alone.
The 2018 midterms, as well as the various special elections nationwide, have been characterized as a referendum on President Trump. For now it's a wait-and-see situation, but women — and black women, specifically — have made it clear that they plan to be heard.