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Election results uneven for women candidates of color in 2020
Close losses in North Carolina's statewide races
Published Thursday, November 19, 2020
by Krystal Frierson | The Charlotte Post

Democrat DeAndrea Salvador of Charlotte earned a seat in the North Carolina Senate with a win in historically Republican District 39.

While political newcomers achieved many firsts across America in 2020, North Carolina was more muted, especially for women of color.

There’s more racial and political diversity with candidates successful running on platforms of equity in healthcare, education and criminal justice reform as well as eliminating institutionalized racism, socio-economic disparities and gender inequalities. Additionally, they represent a larger portion of Millennial and Gen-Z Asian, Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, LGBTQ, and LGBTQ people of color.

According to Pew, more Americans exercised their vote in 2020 than any other election over the last 120 years. Additionally, there was a significant increase in Black voter turnout. According to CNN exit polls, the election of President-elect Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris was made possible by 90% turnout among Black women and 79% of Black men. In North Carolina, 93% of Black women and 91% of Black men supported Biden, who lost the state to President Donald Trump.

In many instances, newcomers are ascending to represent marginalized communities’ needs while steering a polarized country in a new direction. As Pew suggests, “the elected officials will be representing two broad coalitions of voters who are deeply distrustful of one another.” Each party’s fundamental beliefs over policies, plans, and nationwide problems are at odds. 

Women dominated tickets across the country, but in North Carolina, Black women realized mixed results in statewide races.

Rep. Zack Hawkins, a Black Democrat from Durham showed his support on Twitter, @zackhawkinsnc, for Black women in North Carolina. "Women Lead. That is why I back these amazing four statewide candidates. When you go to the polls, make sure you vote down the ballot and vote for Yvonne Holley, Jessica Holmes, Lora Cubbage, and Cheri Beasley. #abetternorthcarolina."

Cubbage, Holley, and Holmes all lost by small percentages in campaigns for state Court of Appeals, lieutenant governor and secretary of labor, respectively. Beasley, the first Black woman chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, is locked in a tight battle against senior associate justice Paul Newby.

A trailing candidate may ask for a recount if the margin is 10,000 votes or less in North Carolina. On Nov. 17, Newby led with 366 votes. Beasley's lawyer filed a formal request for a recount. According to NCSBE, recounts of 5 million ballots cast in North Carolina's Supreme Court chief justice contest will begin later this week. The recount will take several days and must be completed by Nov. 25. 

Senior Pastor Sh'Kur Francis of New Hope United Methodist Church in Atlanta started a conversation on Twitter regarding the race. On Nov. 14, under his account @_shkurfrancis, he tweeted: “Cheri Beasley, the first African American Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, is holding on to reelection by 35 votes after 5.5 million have been cast. EVERY VOTE MATTERS! Please don't underestimate the power of your vote.”

The race between Beasley and Newby has been controversial among North Carolina residents. Before Beasley started her judicial career, she was a former public defender; Newby, a former prosecutor. Their platforms and ideologies have clashed on several cases.

Beasley addressed the intersection of justice and protests around the state in a call for greater accountability.

“In our courts, African Americans are more harshly treated, more severely punished, and more likely to be presumed guilty,” she said in a June press conference.

Beasley emphasized that “even the best judges must be trained to recognize our own biases. We have to be experts not just in law but in equity – equity that recognizes the difficult truths about our shared past. We must openly acknowledge the disparities that exist and are too often perpetuated by our justice system.”

During a forum hosted by The Federalist Society, Newby responded to a question regarding whether there were two types of justice in North Carolina.

“Courts are made to decide cases and controversies that come before it. I have yet to meet a victim who cared anything about the race of the perpetrator. Justice is blindfolded; justice treats everyone the same. So, where’s the evidence that we're not treating everyone the same? As a court, we can do that. In terms of making public policy and public pronouncements, I don't think that's the role of the judicial branch.”

A 2019 Brennen Center report on state supreme court diversity found that between 2000 and 2016, only five candidates of color won state supreme court elections as nonincumbents, while 46 candidates of color lost. The report found that justices who first reach the bench via an interim appointment would more than likely have to stand in a contested election to keep their seat. Further, incumbent judges of color were challenged and lost more often than white incumbents. Men of color faced the most challenges, while white men faced the least. 

In Charlotte, DeAndrea Salvador won her race for state Senate District 39, flipping the traditionally red district. She is a political newcomer, but no stranger in local professional and community circles. She is founder of the Renewable Energy Transition Initiative, a non-profit focused on helping families reduce energy costs sustainably. She serves on the boards of Clean Air Carolina and Youth Empowered Solutions. Previously, she served on the Mecklenburg County Air Quality Commission for three years.

These are a few state highlights of women that are actively changing the political stage.


Marie Pinkney made waves in the race for state senate. Pinkney, a Norfolk State University and Delaware State graduate, was one of three openly LGBTQ candidates in Delaware and the first LGBTQ Black woman to win. 

Pinkney is a social worker whose career began at a treatment center for adolescents with mental health and substance abuse problems. She witnessed the impact of Delaware's opioid crisis.


Michele Rayner is Florida's first LGBTQ woman to serve in the Florida House of Representatives. Rayner is the founder and principal attorney at Civil Liberty Law and an emerging voice on criminal justice reform, education, health, economic disparities, and race and gender issues both locally and nationally.


Kim Jackson won a seat to the state Senate by defeating Republican William Freeman by a 3-1 margin. A graduate of Furman University and Emory's Candler School of Theology, she is an Episcopal priest and has worked to advocate for criminal justice reform in Georgia. She is the first LGBTQ person elected to the Senate.


Cori Bush became the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress. She is a nurse, pastor, and a single mom. Her experience treating people as a medic on Ferguson's streets has pushed her to fight against and eradicate targeted and hateful discrimination in communities. Her mission is to fight to build a future that thrives for all people socially and economically.

New Mexico

New Mexico was the first state to ever elect all women of color to the House of Representatives. All six major party candidates were women.

Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo tribe, won reelection to the House. In 2018, she was one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. Yvette Herrell of the Cherokee nation won in the state's 2nd Congressional District. Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez won the state's 3rd Congressional District.


Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland won in that state's 10th Congressional District. The Democrat is the first Black representative from Washington State and the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress.

As a former mayor, Strickland led her region through the struggles of the recession. She helped attract over $1 billion in investment for housing and businesses and invested over $500 million in infrastructure for roads, bridges, transportation, and the Port, creating over 40,000 new jobs.

Krystal Frierson is an Election SOS fellow.



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