Prominent Black Women Poised to Challenge Senate Representation Gap in 2024 Elections

May 24, 2023 : The absence of Black women in the U.S. Senate may soon end as at least three prominent Black women politicians have launched or are likely to launch U.S. Senate bids in 2024. These open-seat contests, where their party is favored, present a ripe opportunity for these candidates to make history and ensure greater diversity in the Senate. Since Vice President Kamala Harris left the Senate in January 2021, no Black woman has served in the chamber. In fact, throughout U.S. history, only two Black women—Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and Kamala Harris—have held Senate seats.

Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, Delaware’s sole House member and a former intern of Senator Tom Carper, who recently announced he would not seek re-election in 2024, stands as a strong contender to fill the void. Blunt Rochester, the first woman to serve in Congress from Delaware and one of the 28 Black women members in Congress, received implicit endorsement from Carper himself. Her potential candidacy holds significant promise for ending the lack of Black women representation in the Senate.

Running in party-favored states provides an advantage for these candidates. Still, it also brings challenges, including increased costs and the need to overcome historical disparities in fundraising and perceptions of electability. Despite these hurdles, Representative Barbara Lee, who aims to become the second Black woman senator from California, and Angela Alsobrooks, seeking Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat, are undeterred in their pursuits. Lee, a well-established legislator with a record of institutional leadership, draws inspiration from Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman, emphasizing the importance of standing for justice and breaking barriers. Alsobrooks, a former state’s attorney and the current Prince George’s county executive, highlights the need for diverse representation in the Senate and embraces her unique perspective as an asset.

The impact of Black women in shaping policy agendas and outcomes cannot be underestimated. Their representation brings valuable perspectives informed by their lived experiences, leading to more inclusive and equitable policies. While winning three Senate seats would only be a start to addressing the underrepresentation of Black women in statewide elective offices, it holds significant democratic value. The upcoming elections must consider the importance of representation and provide Black women the opportunity to take their rightful place at the table.