SPOTLIGHT

African-American Pols’ Slow Statewide Progress

Tim Scott in his office Wednesday, March 21, 2012.
National Journal
Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
June 13, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

Sure, a sit­ting House ma­jor­ity lead­er los­ing his primary this year was pretty rare: It has now happened once. But, un­be­liev­ably, it’s just as com­mon as two Afric­an-Amer­ic­an sen­at­ors serving con­cur­rently, which only happened for the first time dur­ing this Con­gress. Mov­ing on from there, 2014 is shap­ing up to be a ban­ner year for black politi­cians run­ning statewide — even though the num­ber of wins will re­main low.

— There have been nine Afric­an-Amer­ic­an sen­at­ors, ac­cord­ing to the Sen­ate His­tor­ic­al Of­fice, and Tim Scott (R-SC) and tem­por­ary ap­pointee Mo Cow­an (D-MA) were the first pair to ever serve to­geth­er. Now, Scott and Cory Book­er (D-NJ) do. Book­er be­came the fourth pop­ularly elec­ted black sen­at­or ever last year, and Scott will be­come the fifth when he goes on the bal­lot for the first time.

— Mean­while, if the polling in Mary­land re­mains steady, Lt. Gov. An­thony Brown (D) would be­come the fifth Afric­an-Amer­ic­an gov­ernor — and the third one to be elec­ted — in United States his­tory. (That’s out of about 2,400 in his­tory, per Na­tion­al Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation re­cords.) Gov. Dev­al Patrick (D-MA), the lone cur­rent black gov­ernor, is leav­ing of­fice after two terms at the end of the year.

— Pres­id­ent Obama‘s White House wins were ban­ner mo­ments for the Afric­an-Amer­ic­an com­munity, but they haven’t yet led to a string of high-level suc­cesses for oth­er black politi­cians, many of whom rep­res­ent ma­jor­ity-minor­ity con­stitu­en­cies that haven’t served as great statewide launch­pads.

Pro­gress is pro­gress, and a few can­did­ates in 2014, plus rising stars like Calfor­nia At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Kamala Har­ris, mean that snail’s pace at the statewide level is pick­ing up a bit. But for the black polit­ic­al com­munity, it’s still mov­ing very slowly.
— Scott Bland

COR­REC­TION: The pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this story mis­stated Cory Book­er’s elect­or­al his­tory. He won his seat in a 2013 spe­cial elec­tion.

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