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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.

Go deeper

Democratic Reps. Doyle, Price announce they won't seek re-election

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and David Price (D-N.C.) announced Monday they will not seek re-election in 2022, the latest to make such an announcement as Democrats look to protect a thin House majority in 2022.

Why it matters: The growing number of retirements adds more uncertainty to next year's election, in which Democrats are already facing an uphill battle due to redistricting and the difficulty of retaining the majority when the party in power also controls the White House.

Video gaming's "harder road" to racial diversity

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Barry James Gilmour/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Game developer Chandana "Eka" Ekanayake waited till mid-career to found a startup because he didn't see a path to do it. "I joke about this on Twitter: I wish I had 'white man confidence,'" he says now. "I would have started a company at 25."

Historically, that confidence hasn't been encouraged in the gaming sector. Ekanayake is now one of several entrepreneurs aiming to speed up diversification in a field where progress has been slow.

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.