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The Voice of the Black Community

Local & State

Building a ‘pink wave’ of political participation in NC midterm cycle
Black women at forefront as candidates, voters
 
Published Wednesday, February 7, 2018 6:46 pm
by Whitney M. Taylor

N.C. House candidate Aimy Steele of Concord is among a growing number of African American women seeking elected office in North Carolina in 2018.

African-American women can be game-changers in North Carolina's midterm elections.


After historical wins at the municipal, state and federal levels, including the election of Mayor Vi Lyles, America has seen a rise in black women candidates running for office.

In addition, with the election of Doug Jones in Alabama, Ralph Northam in Virginia and various elections around the country, political professionals saw the power of the black woman vote and its potential.

“We’re talking to voters, we’re not taking it for granted and because we know African Americans, especially African American women happen to be a strong part of our base, we’re definitely talking to African American women who we know to be loyal to the party,” said North Carolina Democratic Party First Vice Chair Aisha Dew.

Historically, black women have been the most loyal supporters of the Democratic Party, turning out over 90 percent for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

“Black women have increased their voting margins and their size of their voting in every election since 1996,” said Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of Higher Heights, a political action committee that recruits and backs African American women candidates.

After Clinton’s loss, the Democratic National Committee put its focus on white working class voters despite the discussion of the importance of black women. In the face of a potential candidates like President Donald Trump, it was not the white working class that made the difference in Alabama and Virginia, but black women.

“This is not a phenomenon,” said Peeler-Allen. “I think particularly with elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Alabama, black women across the country are really seeing very clearly their vote matters and that they could be that deciding factor in elections.”   

With this newfound attention, black women are coming to the forefront in politics, especially in response to Trump’s election. It is leading to a new wave of support to invest in their vote and for black female candidates to run for office.

“I think we are seeing a rise in black women candidates. I think we are also seeing a rise in the success of black women candidates that has really been going on the last couple of election cycles…as the temperament of the nation has changed on a national level,” said Peeler-Allen.

Black women are also running for seats in North Carolina’s General Assembly, including Aimy Steele of Concord, who is seeking NC House District 82 seat.

“I decided to run to give a voice to those who have a voice, but are unable to express it for whatever reason. For me that is children, community members and other people who again whose voice is not typically represented in the majority narrative” she said.

Like Steele, these women are seeing a support from organizations, like Higher Heights and political parties to help get them elected and their platforms pass in legislature.

“Higher Heights is an organization focus on harnessing the political power of black women from the voting booth to elected office,” said Peeler Allen.
The new wave of candidates are running as a response to the current political climate and they could win with an energetic campaign that increases turnout among Democrats and disaffected independents.

“Women, in general, are saying it’s our time not only to take responsibility for some of the things that we talk about as being wrong either in our society or government, but I think that as women we kind of take on that responsibility from a familial perspective, so now seeing the types of analogies that are in office currently, I think we are saying we can do this,” said Steele.

Said Peeler-Allen: “Also, seeing what is happening at the state and local level around issues that are important to black women, their families, their communities, we’re recognizing that the leaders at the decision-making tables are not necessarily coming to the tables with a variety of life experiences and making sure we have a more reflective democracy.”    

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