- This year’s election will likely lead to the most diverse Congress in US history.
- We spoke with two House candidates who would both be the first Black person to represent their district — Cameron Webb of Virginia and Desiree Tims of Ohio.
- Across the country, Black candidates are facing questions about race, policing, and their appeal to white voters.
- View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.
When Cameron Webb decided to run for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District, the last thing he expected people to question was his appeal to white voters — even among his fellow Democrats.
“I show up in the room, I’m talking and they’re just like, you’re phenomenal. You’re amazing. We really like you as a candidate … but do you think white people are going to vote for you too?” Cameron, a 37-year-old doctor, told Business Insider, referring to a local Democratic Party committee meeting.
“And just to hear that question, it was so on the nose that it caught me off guard a little bit. And the first thing I said was, ‘Well, you know, white people like me too.'”
It’s a question many Black candidates in 2020 faced: electability. The primaries saw a record number of Black women running for Congress. And a record number of Black and brown candidates are running for office this year, leading to what will likely be the most diverse Congress ever.
Webb is hoping to beat Republican candidate Bob Good in Virginia’s 5th District, which hasn’t elected a Democrat in more than a decade. If he wins, Webb would be the first Black man to hold the seat.
While Congress is the most diverse it’s ever been, currently, Black men and women make up less than 10% of it.
“I think we have a district that’s pretty diverse. We had 20% nearly of the district that’s African American. And yet [it’s] only been represented by white men throughout its history,” Webb said.
Ultimately, Cameron says he makes a point to connect with everyone. He says he hopes his authenticity opens the door to conversation.
“So I’ll say I’m a doctor and lawyer and professor, and people look at me and they’re like, ‘You look 12 years old.’ That’s when I’ll cut through the air and I’ll say, well you know, Black don’t crack,” Webb said.
“And then they’re just like, wait a minute. What just happened here? And the reason why I do it is because I’m just authentically Black. I’m bringing you the language and the colloquialisms from my community.”
Another first-time candidate, Desiree Tims of Ohio, is running for Congress in a contested race against Republican candidate Mike Turner, who’s serving his ninth term. If elected, she would be the first Black person — and woman — to win Ohio’s 10th District.
“People in my community have had the same representation, or lack thereof, for decades. And it’s time for fresh blood,” she said.
A 2014 study shows Black women face negative perceptions when running regarding their personality, leadership ability, and competence. But Tims says that doesn’t stop her.
“I bring my whole self to the campaign trail everywhere I go because I’m going to bring my whole self to Congress,” she said.
Both Webb and Tims also represent candidates of color who have won primary elections in districts with more white residents than minorities.
And the significance of their campaigns isn’t lost on them.
“I am the granddaughter of sharecroppers and I am the first African American democratic nominee running for Congress in a community where my grandfather came to for a job opportunity with no education,” Tims said.
Said Webb: “We always talk about having the blood of our ancestors pumping through our veins. It’s a very real thing. It’s that idea that we’re carrying that history, that legacy with us in every space that we go.”
Credit: Source link