If everything truly is bigger in Texas, one can assume that also includes the optimism, the dreams, and even, perhaps, the political aspirations. Though the hypothesis has not been proven, there is no doubt that Amanda K. Edwards substantiates the theory. As the first Black woman from the Lone Star State to run for the United States Senate, the odds that she’ll make it into the halls of the 117th U.S. Congress are against her. And still, she fights.
The 38-year-old Houston native says it boils down to her being a servant leader, a woman truly focused on the people, their concerns and their communities. She’s ready to show Texans that democracy can actually work for them and that there are elected officials willing to seak them out beyond securing their vote during the campaign season.
“I’ve been someone who has been serving about 2.3 million Texans for the past four years,” Edwards tells ESSENCE during a January visit to Brooklyn about her time as an at-large member for the Houston City Council, “and have really been focused on delivering meaningful change for people, not just serviceable change, but meaningful change that in fact makes a difference in the trajectory of their lives. That’s what I want people to know about who I am and what I will bring to the table as their next U.S. Senator.”
Beyond the on-job experience that makes her a qualified candidate for office, Edwards’s close connection to the issues that Texans care most about gives her a personal appeal that’s helped her win over voters. Within the last decade, much has been said about gun rights throughout this country. But less has been said about the evasive gun problem plaguing a number of inner cities with majority Black populations. Edwards believes it’s time that change.
“I was in third grade when my cousin was shot in the street and died due to gun violence,” Edwards shares. “So I learned as a very young person, what gun violence could mean, in terms of how that can rip a family apart. The fact of the matter is, how prevalent it actually is, and how many of our households and our families experience gun violence, I think it’s an atrocity. I think it is beyond inappropriate for the state of our gun violence policies to be where they are.”
Edwards goes on to note that Columbine happened while she was in high school, yet the country remains in a similar place as far as the policies that have been passed to help combat mass shootings. She deduces that to the fact that “people are not focused on protecting and serving the people that they’re elected to serve.” And though she knows it’s not a one-person issue by any means, she’s quick to point out that the Republican incumbent who now holds the seat she’s aiming for, is a shining example of the persisting problem.
“John Cornyn has an A+ rating with the NRA,” Edwards reveals, “and I like to tell people all the time, I have made good grades over the course of my life, but an A+ rating from the NRA is not one that I will make, because it’s not worth it to have blood on your hands when you’re thinking about the lives that are lost.”
We have to have leaders who are not going to play political games with people’s lives.Amanda K. Edwards
In 2019, Texas was the scene of two large mass shootings. In August, 22 people were killed and many more injured when a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso. Less than a month later, a shooting in the Midland-Odessa region left seven dead and 25 injured during the Labor Day weekend. According to the Texas Tribune, seven mass shootings have taken place in the state over the last decade, and that doesn’t take into account the countless other lives that were lost in gun-related murders.
The proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is calling for a complete plan that addresses the issue of guns, while also including other forms of prevention. “That’s called being comprehensive,” she quips. “That’s what you should do as a leader if you’re really trying to solve problems and the challenges that the community faces.”
While gun violence is a major issue, it’s just one of the many that’s driving the Harvard law school grad’s desire to oust Cornyn from a seat he has held on to for the last 18 years. Education, the economy, housing, healthcare, and immigration at the border state also top that list. All are of critical importance for Texas residents and a source of turmoil for a number of them.
On the matter of healthcare, Edwards insists that a bi-partisan solve must come quickly. “There are people whose homes I visit that have a real sense of urgency,” stresses Edwards, who credits insurance for helping to sustain her dad’s life a number of years after being diagnosed with cancer. “There was a woman I interviewed not too long ago, a couple of weeks ago, after an event, simply because she shared with me that she was standing here today because she had access to the Affordable Care Act. We have to have leaders who are not going to play political games with people’s lives.” The results-oriented candidate articulates that that includes everything from public education, to affordable housing, to making sure that each and every Texan has a viable way to succeed in the current economy.
For all intents and purposes, Edwards believes she is that leader. Though she faces 11 other Democratic challengers on Super Tuesday, March 3, she’s confident that her proven ability to create real change for the people is what will drive her toward a victory. Right now she has the buy-in from a number of local papers, elected officials and a coalition of Black women. Very early on she also secured the endorsement of a very special Houston momma. In August, Tina Knowles Lawson hosted a brunch fundraiser for the Senate hopeful, calling her “brilliant, honest, innovative,” and added that she was “so impressed and inspired by her genuine heartfelt words.”
When it comes down to it, this race, according to Edwards, is “about all of the people who have ever been locked out or told that they can’t win or to wait their turn because the status quo and establishment was not ready for change.” Edwards is not worried about the naysayers, the timing, the history, or the odds. With the people of Texas on her side, she believes that she can knock down the cynics, flip the seat, and successfully take home the win.