Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

More African-Americans in High Office?

Most African-Americans elected to public office in the U.S. are either mayors of major cities or state legislators or U.S. representatives–and in both of the latter cases, they usually come from “majority-minority” districts.  There have been a few exceptions:  Several years back, Douglass Wilder(D-VA) became governor of Virginia, the first African-American governor since Reconstruction.  Michael Steele (R-MD), who just became the first African-American chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), was previously Lt. Governor of Maryland.  Deval Patrick is Gov. of Massachussetts (D-MA) and David Paterson (D-NY) is governor of NY.  Several years ago Carol Mosely-Braun (D-IL) served one term as Senator from IL and was later Clinton’s Ambassador to the UN and, briefly, a candidate for U.S. president in 2004. 

I predicted, however, that IF Barack Obama actually managed to get elected to the U.S. presidency (and he did), that we would begin to see more African-Americans begin to run for statewide offices.  Apparently, this is already happening.  Rep. Kendrick Meeks (D-FL) has announced that he is running for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL).  Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) has announced yesterday that he will run for Governor of Alabama(!) in 2010. Both are young men.  Davis is 41 and a graduate of Harvard Law School where he knew Barack Obama.  He has been a centrist in Congress even, for a Democrat, conservative–mindful that Alabama is not Vermont!  Likewise, Meeks is a Clintonian centrist Democrat.  Doubtless both will be portrayed by Republicans as flaming liberals, way out of touch with their respective states, but I don’t know whether they will be successful in doing so. 

There are also rumors that legendary civil rights hero, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) is considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2010.  When Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) is term limited, he may run for the U.S. Senate (this is surely Ted Kennedy’s last term) from MA and Mayor Corey Booker (D-NJ) of Newark is probably a future governor of New Jersey. 

Missing from this list, so far, are any African-American women running for statewide offices, even though there are a significant number of African-American women in Congress and even though it was a woman, Carol Mosely-Braun, who became the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.  Hopefully, that will change.

February 3, 2009 - Posted by | race, U.S. politics


  1. Michael you might also mention the lack of Hispanic American and Native Americans in public office.

    Comment by Paul | February 3, 2009

  2. It’s true, but I didn’t think Obama’s election would necessarily change that. The only Native American I know of who was elected to the Senate was the now-retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). As far as I know, Bill Richardson (D-NM)is the only Latino governor of a state. There are 2 Latino Senators (now that Ken Salazar (D-CO) has become Sec. of the Interior): Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mel Martinez (D-FL). The latter is retiring in 2010 after 1 term in the U.S. Senate–having been one of the least popular U.S. Senators. There are only 2 Asians in the Senate, both from Hawai’i (Akaka and Inouye). There are no Latino, Native American, or Asian women in the Senate and very few in the House of Representatives.

    I focused on the African-American situation, however, because I thought it was most likely to change because of Obama’s election.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 5, 2009

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