Black Women Candidates in 2020


The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) has tracked women’s political candidacies for three decades. Since 2004, CAWP has collected women candidates’ racial identification, relying primarily on candidate self-identification. This year, we are reporting this data pre-election and in greater depth than we have before, providing summary information on the increasing diversity among women candidates in addition to specific analyses of Asian or Pacific Islander (API), Black, Middle Eastern or North African (MENA), Latina, and Native American women running for the U.S. Congress and statewide executive offices.

 The data below include all major-party women candidates who identify as Black alone or Black in combination with other races; multiracial women will be included in counts and analyses for each group with which they identify. There remain a small number of candidates in CAWP’s database for whom we were unable to determine racial identification. Those women are included here to calculate percentages of all women candidates and are alluded to when we say “at least” before reported counts of Black women.

A record number of Black women are running for congressional office in 2020.

At least 130 (98D, 32R) Black women are congressional candidates in 2020, including 117 (89D, 28R) Black women candidates for the U.S. House and 13 (9D, 4R) Black women candidates for the U.S. Senate. These numbers include all Black women filed candidates, including those who may have already lost their primary elections. They do not include candidates for non-voting offices in the U.S. House. This is the largest number of Black women candidates who have run for the House or Senate, overall and in both parties, in a single election year.

A record number of Black women are already nominees for the U.S. House in 2020 with primaries still to be held in 14 states.

With primaries to be held in 14 more states, 44 (35D, 9R) Black women have already won major-party nominations for the U.S. House. This number of Black women House nominees is already greater than the previous high (41), which was set in 2018.

As of August 4th, no Black women are nominees for the U.S. Senate. This is a site of persistent underrepresentation for Black women. In all of U.S. history, just 2 (2D) Black women – Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL, 1993-1999) and Kamala Harris (D-CA, 2017-Present) – have been U.S. Senators.

Black women are a larger percentage of all women running for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate this year.

Women candidates who identify as Black alone or in combination with other race(s) are at least 20.1% of all women running for the U.S. House in 2020. This is a slightly greater level of representation than in any other election year since 2004. Black women are at least 25% of Democratic and 12.3% of Republican women House candidates, which are larger percentages than in recent cycles, but not record highs.

Black women are 21.7% of all women candidates for the U.S. Senate this year. They are 24.3% of Democratic women Senate candidates, which is not a record high, and 17.4% of Republican women Senate candidates, which is a larger percentage than in any other year in CAWP’s data.

These levels of representation are important indicators of the racial diversity among women candidates, but even more telling will be the racial diversity among women congressional nominees and winners in 2020.

Black women remain underrepresented in the full candidate pools for U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

Recent U.S. Census estimates note that women who identify as Black alone or in combination with other races represent about 7.6% of the U.S. population. In 2020, women in this group are 5.8% of all candidates for the U.S. House. Black women are better represented among Democratic (9.5%) than Republican (2.6%) House candidates this year.

Black women are 5.2% of all major-party U.S. Senate candidates in 2020. As in U.S. House contests, they are better represented among Democrats (7.6%) than Republicans (3%). 

There are opportunities for Black women to make history down-ballot this year.

In 2018, five new Black women were elected to the U.S. House, including three – Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Jahana Hayes (D-CT) – who were the first women of color to represent their states in Congress. Four of five freshman Black women members of the 116th Congress (2019-2021) were elected in majority-white districts, challenging doubts about Black women’s viability outside of majority-minority electorates and expanding the types of districts from which Black congresswomen are elected. Two of these congresswomen – Representatives Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) – were among the women members who flipped House seats from Republican to Democrat in 2018; both will again face competitive elections this fall.

The 2020 election offers more opportunities for Black women to make history and disrupt prevailing trends. Cori Bush defeated long-time Representative Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary in Missouri’s 1st congressional district. As the Democratic nominee in a district favoring her party, Bush is favored to become the first Black woman and first woman of color to represent Missouri in the U.S. Congress. Candace Valenzuela, who is the Democratic nominee in Texas’ 24th congressional district, has the potential to become the first Afro-Latina in Congress. Her open-seat contest is currently deemed a toss-up by Cook Political Report. Valenzuela’s district is also majority-white, signaling an opportunity to further cement the electability of Black women – and women of color more broadly – among majority-white electorates. Likewise, Mayor Michelle De La Isla – who identifies as Latina, Black, and white – is the Democratic nominee in Kansas’ 2nd congressional district, which is majority-white. Her opponent defeated incumbent Representative Steve Watkins (R) to create an open-seat general election contest in a district already deemed competitive in November.

Black women are already U.S. House nominees in seven of 31 states – Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina – that have never sent a Black woman to Congress. Black women are also running in forthcoming or to-be-decided primary contests in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Washington – all states that have never sent a Black woman to Congress. In an open-seat contest in Washington’s 10th congressional district, two Black women are running for the Democratic nomination in a district that strongly favors their party. That district is also majority-white in its population.

Finally, two Black women – Angela Stanton-King (R) and Georgia State Senator Nikema Williams (D) – will compete for the U.S. House seat in Georgia’s 5th congressional district upon the death of Representative John Lewis (D). Senator Williams is strongly favored to win in what has been a reliably Democratic district.

CAWP Staff