In the South, most of the Senate candidates are black since Reconstruction

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Colombia, SC In the battle for control of the US Senate this year, the Deep South is fielding more black candidates than it has filed since Reconstruction.

In South Carolina, Jaime Harrison raises a An unfathomable amount of money before In what became a competitive battle to oust one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate. He is joined by Raphael Warnock in neighboring Georgia, a prominent Democrat in a busy square running for the seat a particular Republican holds. Meanwhile, Mike Espie and Adrian Perkins are bidding for Senators in Mississippi and Louisiana respectively.

Their nominations come within a year of deep reckoning in the United States about systemic racism and represent a more diverse type of political leader in the South, where Democrats have tended to rally behind white moderates in recent years in often unfortunate attempts to appeal to the disaffected. Republicans.

“It’s a tough battle we’re constantly waging to help Democrats imagine a world in which people who look like me are viable candidates everywhere – not just in your blue states, not just in urban cities,” said Quentin James of The Collective, the Political Action Committee that supports candidates. The blacks.

The Senate currently has three black members: Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Kamala Harris of California. Harris is the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

Candidates face hurdles in a region that has been the stronghold of the Republican Party for a generation. Of their four states, only one is a Democratic governor. In South Carolina, it’s been nearly 15 years since a Democrat won a statewide office and 44 years since a Democratic presidential candidate won.

But there are signs that change is likely. In Georgia and North Carolina – states that have not backed a Democratic candidate for the White House since 1992 and 2008, respectively – Joe Biden is locked in a tough race with President Donald Trump. In Georgia, Warnock recently appeared at a rally with Harris, who supported him.

The 2018 elections marked a turning point. While Democrat Stacy Abrams narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race, her strong performance, particularly in the Republican-leaning Atlanta suburbs, indicated a pathway for black Democrats.

“The more competitive the races, and the more black candidates win these competitive races, it reduces anxiety that the black candidates will not be able to win,” Abrams told the Associated Press recently.

Warnock is hoping to come out on top in a crowded square against Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed this year by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Warnock is pastor of Atlanta Church where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached. He draws heavily on his experiences as a black man living in the Deep South, from his growing up in public housing in Georgia to his current support for expanding access to healthcare, voting rights, criminal justice reform and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Louisiana, Perkins, a West Point graduate and Army veteran, is seen as the leading candidate in a nonpartisan primary to challenge Republican Senator Bill Cassidy.

Perkins had the endorsement of former President Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats, but his late entry into the race made fundraising difficult. Cassidy raised a big account on the campaign.

In Mississippi, he is trying for the second time to become the state’s first black senator since Reconstruction by challenging incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde Smith. In 1986, Espie was elected Mississippi’s first black congressman of the modern era before heading the US Department of Agriculture. Biden supported Espi.

The Republican-dominated state was the last time a Democrat in the Senate in 1988. To win, Espie needs a strong turnout among black Democratic voters, along with support from white voters disillusioned with Trump.

Espie highlights his family history in Mississippi, where his grandfather started a hospital for African Americans in 1924, and his father owned a funeral home where Emmett Till’s body was taken after the torture and killing of a 14-year-old black from Chicago in rural Mississippi. Espie and his twin sister were among the few black students to incorporate an all-white high school.

“It’s about overcoming the problems in the old Mississippi state and fighting for the progress of the future,” he said.

There’s also Marketa Bradshaw, a Democrat from Tennessee, a black environmental activist who faces an uphill battle to secure a U.S. Senate seat that was inaugurated with the retirement of Republican Lamar Alexander.

Bradshaw, the first black woman to win a statewide nomination in Tennessee, is pitted against former US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, whom Trump has approved. Republicans have held two Tennessee Senate seats since 1994.

But it’s Harrison who has garnered the most national attention – and money – this year. for him More than 100 million dollars In fundraising, he broke Senate campaign records and helped turn a race that would have been an afterthought into a real competition.

Harrison highlights his humble upbringing and criticizes incumbent Senator Lindsay Graham for being too quick to fulfill Trump’s requests. Graham, chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee, was at the helm of the payment Confirmation by Amy Connie Barrett from the Supreme Court.

With the state in place for himself where Graham led the effort, Harrison held a series of rallies, rallying support from voters he says are ready for change. His fundraising has allowed him to cover the country with ads, many of which include a story of his upbringing out of little beginnings, Ivy League education and his desire to return the favor.

“Only in America, a small boy, raised to the age of a 16-year-old mother, with his grandparents who had a fourth and eighth grade education, who lived in a mobile home, could go to Yale University, Georgetown, and work on Capitol Hill, today He is about to become the next US Senator from the great state of South Carolina, ”Harrison said at a recent rally.

He added, “I know the difficult times, I lived through difficult times.”


Associated Press reporters Kimberly Croese in Nashville, Tennessee; Emily Wagster Beatus in Jackson, Mississippi; Ben Nadler of Atlanta contributed to this report.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

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