Sep 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Black Democrats target GOP

Illustration of a pair of black hands pulling a rug out from underneath an elephant's foot.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A growing group of Black Democrats — mostly men — is stepping up to try to unseat Republican House members in California, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina and Illinois.

Why it matters: Although independent analysts like the Cook Political Report think the members' districts are friendly GOP territory, a Black political group backing the challengers believes the candidates have a chance because of their local ties and the districts' changing demographics.

The backdrop: So far, nine Black Democrats are running to challenge Republicans in these states, but The Collective PAC tells Axios that number will grow by five or more. All but one is a Black man.

  • The group looked for candidates with experience in fields that directly serve the community, such as pastors, doctors, educators, veterans and community leaders.
  • It's also supporting six Congressional Black Caucus members who are so-called frontline members and running tough re-election races in 2022: Democratic Reps. Lauren Underwood (Ill.-14), Lucy McBath (Ga.-6), Steven Horsford (Nev.-4), Jahana Hayes (Conn.-5), Colin Allred (Texas-32) and Antonio Delgado (N.Y.-19).
  • The Republicans they're targeting so far include: Reps. Tom McClintock (Calif.-4), David Schweikert (Ariz.-6), Devin Nunes (Calif.-22), Mike Garcia (Calif.-25), Ken Calvert (Calif.-42), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.-14), Rodney Davis (Ill.-13) and Madison Cawthorn (N.C.-11).
  • They're also supporting Michele Rayner, Black civil rights and justice attorney running in Florida's 13th District, the St. Petersburg-area district held by retiring Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.).

What they're saying: "Our mission is about building Black political power," said Kevin Olasanoye, The Collective PAC's political director. It works to ensure equal Black representation at all levels of government.

  • "We’re being one of the loudest, strongest, boldest voices supporting Black candidates running for office around the country."
  • Kermit Jones, a physician running against Republican Rep. Tom McClintock in California's 4th District, told Axios his work and mother's Stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis pushed him to run for Congress.
  • "We don't have a lot of people [in the U.S. House of Representatives] who understand medicine, who have worked on the frontlines and who have seen patients."
  • He said witnessing his mother's struggle to get quality access to care for her cancer refocused what he could do to help.
  • "I felt that even if I saw patients every day until I retire, I wouldn't be able to do enough unless I went in there [Congress] to actually help get people the care that they need," Jones said.

Between the lines: These campaigns are still in their early stages and the candidates haven't even conducted polling to find particular vulnerabilities in their Republican opponents.

  • But Olasanoye of The Collective said that will be coming soon, and the group identified the districts based on where redistricting is likely to have the least effect on the existing district and where there aren't multiple Black candidates running in a primary.
  • The 117th Congress has 57 Black representatives, but only two are Republicans, according to Pew Research. However, Republicans brought in nine of the non-white freshman representatives in the current Congress.

What to watch: The Collective said it doesn't intend to get involved in primary challenges to any sitting CBC members, including the one being mounted by Kina Collins against Rep. Danny Davis in Ill.-7.

  • That said, the group isn't ruling out getting involved in other Dem-on-Dem primaries, Olasanoye said.
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