Faces of change abound in na­tion’s midterm con­tests

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Stay Connected - BY K.K. RE­BECCA LAI, DENISE LU, LISA LERER AND TROY GRIGGS

In the 2018 midterm elec­tions, di­ver­sity has be­come a po­lit­i­cal move­ment. Ris­ing out of the protests in the early months of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, an un­prece­dented num­ber of women, peo­ple of color, and les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der can­di­dates are now run­ning for Congress and gov­er­nor, ac­cord­ing to a New York Times anal­y­sis.

The per­cent­age of can­di­dates who are white men is the low­est it has been in the last four elec­tions, ac­cord­ing to data avail­able to The Times.

If she won, Ge­or­gia’s Stacey Abrams would be the first black woman elected gov­er­nor of any state. Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn would be Ten­nessee’s first fe­male se­na­tor. And Jared Po­lis of Colorado would be the na­tion’s first openly gay man to be elected gov­er­nor. Scores of oth­ers could make his­tory if they win their races.

The ef­forts of these can­di­dates and oth­ers like them point to a ma­jor shift in the kinds of Amer­i­cans choos­ing to pur­sue pub­lic ser­vice through elected of­fice. Their can­di­da­cies are likely to have lon­glast­ing im­pacts on po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the United States, though they are un­likely to rad­i­cally change the over­all com­po­si­tion of the House, Se­nate and gov­er­nor­ships.

There are more new faces than in­cum­bents in this di­verse co­hort of can­di­dates. More than a quar­ter of all the can­di­dates run­ning this year are fe­male, in­clud­ing 84 women of color – a 42 per­cent in­crease from just two years ago. There are at least 215 can­di­dates of color and a record 26 openly LGBT can­di­dates, more than five times the num­ber in 2010.

The iden­ti­ties of the can­di­dates are play­ing out against the back­drop of an elec­tion fu­eled by is­sues of race and gen­der. A week­end mas­sacre at a Pitts­burgh sy­n­a­gogue, a Supreme Court con­firma- tion hear­ing roiled by ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual as­sault and a car­a­van of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants have thrust these is­sues into the fore­front of a charged elec­tion.

“There is a sense that our com­mu­ni­ties are un­der at­tack and we are the best ad­vo­cates for poli­cies that will fight back against those at­tacks,” said Sayu Bho­jwani, pres­i­dent of New Amer­i­can Lead­ers, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps im­mi­grants run for pub­lic of­fice.

The di­ver­sity is not uni­form. Among Demo­cratic can­di­dates, white men are ac­tu­ally a mi­nor­ity, mak­ing up just 41 per­cent of can­di­dates for Congress and gov­er­nor this year.

The other side of the aisle looks a lot dif­fer­ent: Three in four Repub­li­can can­di­dates are white men. In gov­er­nor’s races this year, there are no black or Latino Repub­li­can can­di­dates.

Cur­rently, white men make up a third of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, but 69 per­cent of all gov­er­nors and mem­bers of Congress. That dis­con­nect looks par­tic­u­larly stark in dis­tricts where a ma­jor­ity of res­i­dents are peo­ple of color. Demo­cratic chal­lengers in those ar­eas, like Ayanna Press­ley in Mas­sachusetts, found pri­mary suc­cess this year by stress­ing the im­por­tance of iden­tity.

“Lis­ten, I’m not say­ing vote for me be­cause I’m a black woman, but I won’t pre­tend rep­re­sen­ta­tion doesn’t mat­ter. It mat­ters,” Press­ley said dur­ing a cam­paign stop over the sum­mer.

In Septem­ber, Press­ley de­feated 10-term in­cum­bent Michael Ca­puano in the Demo­cratic pri­mary for her Bos­ton-based district. She is now poised to be­come the first black woman to rep­re­sent her state in Congress.

She is one of sev­eral fe­male can­di­dates who de­feated male op­po­nents, of­ten sur­pris­ing their par­ties as the un­ex­pected win­ner of pri­maries this year.

Alexan­dria Oca­sioCortez, who up­set Rep. Joseph Crow­ley of New York in a Demo­cratic House pri­mary in June, made sim­i­lar ap­peals.

“Women like me aren’t sup­posed to run for of­fice,” she said, in a vi­ral cam­paign video that kicked off her bid for Congress.

Ap­peals like that pave the way for other peo­ple of color, women and those from his­tor­i­cally marginal­ized groups to run for of­fice by chang­ing the im­age of the kinds of Amer­i­cans who are politi­cians, say pro­po­nents of in­creas­ing po­lit­i­cal di- ver­sity.

“When you have two Mus­lim-Amer­i­can women in Congress, sud­denly every young Mus­limAmer­i­can woman sees that as a pos­si­bil­ity,” said Bho­jwani, who re­cently pub­lished a book on the new wave of first and sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­cans run­ning for of­fice. (Two Demo­cratic can­di­dates could fit the bill she de­scribed.)

In red­der states, can­di­dates are less likely to make ex­plicit ap­peals to their iden­tity. But the pres­i­dent’s in­flam­ma­tory com­ments on mat­ters of race, gen­der and sex­u­al­ity have made dis­cus­sion of these top­ics nearly un­avoid­able. Di­vi­sive themes have shown up in cam­paign ads and in de­bates across the coun­try.

In the Florida de­bate for gov­er­nor last week, Ron DeSan­tis, a Repub­li­can, was ques­tioned on past speak­ing en­gage­ments at far-right con­fer­ences and cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from a donor who called Barack Obama a racist slur on Twit­ter. DeSan­tis said he would not “bow down to the al­tar of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.”

His op­po­nent, An­drew Gil­lum, a Demo­crat, shot back: “I’m not call­ing Mr. DeSan­tis a racist. I’m sim­ply say­ing the racists be­lieve he’s a racist.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.