African American candidates running for the U.S. Senate smashed campaign fundraising records over the past three months, raising hopes of bringing much-needed diversity to a Congress that remains overwhelmingly dominated by white men.
There have only been 11 Black Senators since 1789, and only two were women. Senator Kamala Harris’s ascent to the vice-presidency means there are currently no female members in the Senate who are Black. But the next election cycle sets up the possibility to bring more women and other people of color into Congress than just the Vice President’s replacement.
Rep. Val Demings, a congresswoman and former police chief challenging the Republican Senator Marco Rubio in Florida, was the leading Black female Democratic candidate, raising an astonishing $8.5 million. This puts her just behind Rep. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who’s facing an early primary challenge for his seat. Warnock, a pastor who won a crucial runoff in January to become Georgia’s first Black senator, took in a staggering $9.5 million over three months for his re-election bid. Another Democrat, Charles Booker, is running for Senate in Kentucky against incumbent Republican Rand Paul and raised $1.7m in the third quarter, which ran from July to the end of September. Cheri Beasley, a judge running for Senate in North Carolina as a Democrat, netted $1.5 million for her campaign.
In the most recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) reporting period, these huge sums from donors, especially in the South, suggest the potential to build a caucus of Black politicians who can excite the grassroots and reshape the government. Notably, both Warnock and Demings raised more money than any other Senate candidate of any racial demographic. More than a year before the midterm elections, the historic coffers signal that American voters are now more open to voting for Black candidates, especially women, after years of struggling to match their white counterparts in their fundraising efforts. Once seen as “unelectable,” Black candidates are finally getting long-overdue recognition in politics.
Social Worker. Chief of Police. Congresswoman. Senator. pic.twitter.com/xQHKT8hgkX
— Val Demings (@valdemings) October 22, 2021
But Republicans have also capitalized on the trend as well. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina took in a haul of $8.4 million, fueling speculation that he could be putting together his own bid for the White House in 2024. Herschel Walker, a former football player taking on Warnock in Georgia, raised $3.8 million in the first five weeks of his Donald Trump-endorsed campaign.
2022 Black Senate candidates 3rd quarter fundraising and Cash On Hand:
Sen. Warnock GA – $9.5M/COH $17.2M
Val Demings FL – $8.4M/COH $6M
Cheri Beasley NC – $1.5M/COH 1.6M
Mandela Barnes WI – $1.1M/COH $770K
Malcolm Kenyatta PA – $320K/COH $319K
— Candidly Tiff: Learn Civics 📚📖 (@tify330) October 16, 2021
Not all Black candidates have been as lucky as Demings and Warnock, however. In Pennsylvania, Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democratic state representative, was outraised by both the lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, and congressman Conor Lamb.