Today is Election Day, and although many people are focused on the important presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, there are many other high profile elections happening across the country where Black women are at the forefront. This election season is a pivotal time in our political history. This year a Black woman became her state’s first Black elected official. An Afro-Latina may become the first to serve in Congress. And Kamala Harris is the first Black and South Asian woman nominated on a major party’s presidential ticket. Black women have made strides in the political space, but we’re not done yet. Below are 20 races where Black women can make a lasting impact on Election Day.
- Kamala Harris – Harris is no stranger to making history. As the first woman elected District Attorney of San Francisco, the first woman and person of color to serve as Attorney General of California, only the second Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate and now as the first Black and South Asian woman on a major presidential ticket, she’s definitely up for the challenge of being Joe Biden’s vice president. Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, grew up in Oakland and attended Howard University, where she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Kamala’s name is the Sanskrit word meaning “lotus” flower.
- Richmond, Va Mayoral Race: In Richmond, Va, three Black women are vying for the mayor’s office. Kim Gray, Tracey Mclean and Alexsis Rodgers are running against the incumbent Levar Stoney. Currently Rodgers serves as the Virginia director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Gray is the 2nd District representative on the City Council. Outside of politics, McLean is an award-winning author and talk show host. She has written a series of books, as well as produced and filmed tv shows.
- California State Senator Holly Mitchell is running for the powerful LA County Board of Supervisors. Most recently, Mitchell led the charge against natural hair discrimination with authoring the Crown Act, which was signed into law in California in 2019, making it illegal to discriminate against natural hair and protective styles like braids, locs, twists and knots.
- In August 2020 after winning the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee, Marquita Bradshaw became the first African American woman to win a major political party nomination in any statewide race in the state. Bradshaw is an environmentalist and activist who has been endorsed by Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and The Sierra Club.
- State Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley is running for Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina. The Raleigh native is an advocate for education and during her tenure in the NC House of Representatives, she helped close the gap in food insecure areas.
- Alissia Canady is a former small business owner and prosecutor who is now running for Lieutenant Governor of Missouri. Canady grew up on Kansas City’s East Side. “We’ve never had a person of color elected statewide in Missouri ever,” Canady recently told ESSENCE. “It’s time for change.”
- History could be made in Washington State today. That area has never elected an African American to congress, but Marilyn Strickland is up for the challenge to represent Washington State’s 10th Congressional District. In addition, there are eight Black women who are currently running to represent various districts in the Washington House of Representatives.
- Houston attorney Rep. Senfronia Thompson has served longer in the legislature than any other woman or Black person in Texas history. She is now running for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. If elected, she’d be the first Black woman to serve in that powerful leadership role.
- Two Black women veterans are making their mark this year. Jackie Gordon, with 29 years of military service, is running to represent New York’s 2nd Congressional District. Another true patriot in the run for congress is Pam Keith. Keith is a former Judge Advocate in the U.S. Navy and is running to represent Florida’s 18th Congressional District.
- Desiree Tims may be only 33 years old, but she’s already a political force to be reckoned with in Ohio. Tims is running for election to the U.S. House to represent Ohio’s 10th Congressional District. Tims previously served in the White House during President Barack Obama’s first term and worked on Capitol Hill for United States Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Tims has received endorsements from President Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.
- Can a mom flip a district? Well, Candace Valenzuela is hoping to do that in Texas. Valenzuela is running to represent Texas’s 24thCongressional District. If elected, Valenzuela will also become the first Afro-Latina in Congress.
- Judge Pat Timmons-Goodson previously served as the vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and she made history in 2006 when she became the first African American woman on the Supreme Court of North Carolina. Timmons-Goodson is now running to represent North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District.
- Cori Bush wears many hats. From being a registered nurse, pastor, and activist from St. Louis, Missouri, Bush has had a lifetime of service in her community. But today she’s hoping to secure a win to represent Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. And if she wins as expected, she’ll be Missouri’s first Black woman in Congress.
- Arkansas State Sen. Joyce Elliott spent 30 years as a public school teacher and would be the first Black person elected to congress from Arkansas. Elliot is running to represent Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District.
- Nikema Williams is currently serving as a member of the Georgia State Senate for the 39th district and is the chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Williams was one of 15 people arrested during a protest against the handling of the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election at the Georgia State House. And now she is planning on walking in John Lewis’ footsteps to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Growing up, life wasn’t a crystal stair for Jahana Hayes. As a teen, she dealt with homelessness and teen pregnancy, but she didn’t let those obstacles stand in her way. She was recognized as the National Teacher of the Year in 2016 and in 2018, Hayes became the first Black person to ever represent the state of Connecticut in Congress. Today, after a battle with the COVID-19 virus this year, she is looking to retain her seat.
- Adrienne Bell is a college student, teacher, and mother who knows the value of a quality education. It’s why she’s running to represent Texas’ 14th Congressional District. If elected, Bell’s top priorities include: strengthening the public school system, raising the federal minimum wage, healthcare for all and criminal justice reform.
- In 2018, Lauren Underwood became the youngest Black woman to be elected to Congress. Underwood, a registered nurse with two master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University, is looking to be reelected to serve Illinois’ competitive 14th Congressional District.
- With a 25 year career in finance, Cynthia Wallace recently received an endorsement from the Charlotte Observer for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. If elected, Wallace plans on focusing on small business, agriculture and would push for more unemployment assistance in her state.
- During this week’s election, Black Republican women are making strides across the country. In total, there are 32 Black Republican women running for Congress, four running in the Senate and 28 running for the House. In California, Tamika Hamilton, a retired Air Force officer, is a first-time candidate for California’s 3rd Congressional District.
We can’t forget about Congresswomen Lucy McBath (GA-06), Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) who have hit the ground running in their first terms in the U.S. House. To track the historic number of Black women candidates this year and beyond, Higher Heights compiled a list of 400 Black women running across the country.
As Americans head to the polls today, and as the millions of mailed in ballots are counted, all the Black women who are candidates across the country are letting people know that we don’t only want a seat at the table, but want to continue to build inclusive tables for generations to come.
Glynda C. Carr is the President and CEO of Higher Heights, the only national organization providing Black women with a political home exclusively dedicated to harnessing their power to expand Black women’s elected representation and voting participation, and advance progressive policies.