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Record number of Black women candidates in Alabama

Alabama

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 3/26/2018, 10:03 a.m.
NBC News is reporting that Alabama has a record number of Black women...
Jameria Moore

NBC News is reporting that Alabama has a record number of Black women candidates for public office this year, fueled by the upset win of Doug Jones to the Senate last year, opposition to President Donald Trump and a “desire to carry on Obama’s legacy.” An example is Jameria Moore, a 49-year-old attorney who launched her campaign for a judgeship on the Jefferson County Probate Court. She is one of about three dozen African-American women who are running for office as Democrats across deep-red Alabama.

It's an unprecedented number, according to party officials. Many, like Moore, are running for the first time. And many, like Moore, say Democrat Doug Jones' unexpected Senate victory in December inspired them to take a chance. But there's more to this wave of Black women candidates than that. “It's so important that we step up, that we show the nation that we can lead,” Moore told NBC News in a recent interview, as a small team of volunteers bustled about her law office and prepared for the campaign ahead.

“That, here in Alabama, we're ready to lead our state into the future.” Her campaign is mounting a robust effort in a local race with a crowded Democratic primary field — all in an intensely conservative state with a history of racial division. “I have friends in other states who say, 'I don't know how you live in Alabama,' and I tell them, 'Why wouldn't I live in Alabama?'” she said. “This is an opportunity, that's how I look at it.” In the heady months after Jones' win — an upset fueled in part by exceptionally high turnout by African-American women — a new energy has fueled Jefferson County Democrats. Ninety-eight percent of Black women voted for Jones, according to an NBC News exit poll — a decisive factor in the former federal prosecutor becoming the first Democrat in 25 years to be elected to the Senate from Alabama. Now, just three months later, an unprecedented number of African-American women are taking the next step in building on that momentum by running for local and statewide office.

More than 35 Black women have launched campaigns or re-election efforts, and more than three-quarters of them are running here in Birmingham, in state and county judicial races, or for seats in the state legislature. Organizers and local officials say it's evidence of a small but significant Democratic burst of political activism that could put a blue-hued dent in a deep-Trump state. “Alabama is not a state that is known for electing women to office, so, in some sense, this is surprising, historic and much needed,” said Richard Fording, a professor of public policy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The effort has been partly driven by national groups, which hit the ground during Jones' campaign and, after his win, stuck around, sensing further progress could be made. “This place that was so resistant to change, where, now, a group of women who were looked down upon and dealt first-hand with the vestiges of slavery and segregation are the ones who can lead us forward — it's monumental," said Quentin James, founder and director of the Collective PAC, a two-year-old group focusing on recruiting African-American candidates in statewide and local races across the U.S. “Where better to demonstrate the progress being made than in Alabama,” he added.