Voices & Choices

Wins and Losses for People of Color this Midterm Election 2014

Wins and Losses for People of Color this Midterm Election 2014
The election results rolling in this week largely have focused on Republican control of Congress, but not much has been said about the progress or regression of candidates of color this midterm election. A record number of people of color ran for Congress and statewide elections.


African Americans Candidates
  • The Senate is 2% African American. In early 2013, there were zero African American Senators, and only five African Americans have been elected to the Senate since Reconstruction.
  • Susana Martinez (NM) and Brian Sandoval (NV) were easily re-elected as governors.
  • David Ige (D) was elected governor of Hawaii after beating the white incumbent in the primary and then winning a hotly contested general election. Nikki Haley (R) was re-elected as governor of South Carolina.
  • Of the ten Democratic incumbents that lost this past election cycle, three of them are people of color--Joe Garcia (FL), Steven Horsford (NV), and Pete Gallego (TX).
  • Out all 535 seats in Congress, only 46 members of the new 114th Congress are African American, 32 are Hispanic and Latino, nine are Asian American, and two are Native American. 
  • Appointed to office in 2013, Tim Scott (R-SC) became the first African American to be elected to the Senate in the South since Reconstruction.
  • Cory Booker (D) was re-elected to his U.S. Senate seat on Nov.4 in his state of New Jersey, after winning a special election in 2013.

Latino Candidates
  • According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO),the Latino roster in Congress will be the largest yet, with an increase of five Latinos to a total of 29. Ruben Gallego (D) AZ-7, Pete Aguilar (D) CA-31, Norma Torres (D) CA-35, Carlos Curbelo (R) FL-26, and Alex  Mooney (R)-WVA-2 add to the Latino voice in Congress. Mooney is the first Latino to serve in the House from West Virginia.
  • 12 Latinos (possibly 13) will serve in statewide executive office, an increase of two Latinos. Alex Padilla (D) was elected to be the first Latino elected to be California’s Secretary of State, and George P. Bush will serve as the first Latino Land Commissioner in Texas.

Asian American Candidates
  • Stephanie Chang (D) because the first Asian American women to serve in Michigan legislature.
  • Rady Mom becomes first Cambodian American (D-MA) state legislator in the country.

Women of Color:
  • There will be a record total of 32 women of color in the House (29D, 3R), including 18 African American women (17D, 1R), 9 Latinas (7D, 2R), and 5 Asian/Pacific Islander Americans (5D).
  • The new House members include 5 women of color (four African Americans and one Latina): Alma Adams (D-NC), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Mia Love (R-UT), Norma Torres (D-CA), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). A new delegate, Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), is African American.
  • Utah’s Mia Love (R) was elected to the House, becoming the first female African American Republican in Congress. 
  • Bonnie Watson Coleman (D) beat out Dr. Alieta Eck to be elected as New Jersey’s first African American woman in Congress.
  • Evelyn Sanguinetti (R-IL) will be the first Latina lieutenant governor in any state and the only new woman of color in a state’s number two post.
  • Nellie Gorbea, Rhode Island’s new secretary of state, is the first Latina elected statewide in that state and the first Latina elected to a statewide executive post in New England.


While we must congratulate all of the candidates of color for their win across the nation, it is essential to remember that on all levels of government, we must look to the losses to create a real depiction of the political playing field for candidates of color. Here are a few unsettling facts:

  • Latina Republican Marilinda Garcia of New Hampshire lost her chance at Congress during the midterms, with many claiming she was too young and did not have enough experience to lead at 31 years old. While it is difficult to make a comparison, it is notable that white Republican of New York, Elise Stafanik, 30, was able to take the position as the youngest woman of Congress in history this election.
  • Anthony Brown (D), could have been the third African American to be elected as governor since Reconstruction but lost against Larry Hogan (R), despite the advantage Brown had in residing in a heavily Democratic state. Analysis of the defeat has largely ignored the proverbial elephant in the room: Brown did much more poorly than white Democrats running statewide in areas of the states with large white majorities. Instead of noting the loss of a possible history-making election for African American representation, the post-election coverage has focused on Brown for not having a strong enough platform  and that, as the Washington Post reports, “polls suggested that nearly a third of all voters did not have a clear impression of Brown.” But in various media outlets, it was widely reported that the majority of the races on the 2014 midterm elections rested on weak platforms or riding on attacks for the other opponent. So why was Brown given more resistance than his white counterparts?
  • A record number of 83 African American politicians, a majority of them Democrats, made the congressional ballot this year, an increase of 11 from 2012. But while it may be tempting to celebrate this number, the catch is that 32 of them ran in the South, an area where Democrats most likely lose. David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, noted

I wish I could write with confidence that these increases in black major party nominees was a positive development, but the fact is that many of the increases are occurring in states (especially in the South) where most whites are withdrawing from Democratic party politics — leaving black candidates the nominations by default.

  • With the changes that were made to Congress, stagnation is also crucial to spotlight.
    1) Next year there will be only three governors who are men of color -- Asian Americans Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana and David Ige (D) of Hawaii and Latino Brian Sandoval (R) of Nevada -- and two governors who are woman of color, Susana Martinez (R) of New Mexico and Nikki Haley (R) of South Carolina. There will be no African American governors.

    2) The Senate still has the most African Americans it has ever had-- a whopping two of them -- and there are still only three Latinos in the Senate, with no Latinos making it on the ballot in any Senate races this election.

This begs the question: Are we more critical, whether it is consciously or subconsciously, of candidates and elected officials when they are from a minority group? Do people of color face more barriers when running and once elected than white candidates in the U.S.? FairVote will be delving into the election results of candidates of color, the coverage of those results, and electoral reforms that might change opportunities for people of color in the year ahead.

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