White Men Are Minority of House Democratic Nominees For First Time Ever

Women and people of color make up the majority of politicians running for House seats on the Democratic ticket, according to a new analysis.

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Sep 11 2018, 7:21pm

J Pat Carter for the Washington Post/Getty Images

White men form the minority of House Democratic nominees this cycle, giving way to a wave of women and people of color who outnumber them.

An analysis from Politico found that women in the Democratic Party have clinched 180 House nominations this cycle; at least 133 Democratic House nominees are people of color, and 158 are first-time candidates, there being some overlap among the three categories.

Women's success in their primary contests helps shore up the narrative of a wave of women running and winning that has dominated this election cycle, one which many expect will make 2018 another "Year of the Woman." According to Politico, Democratic women's 180 House nominations shatter their previous record of 120 House nominations.

Democratic women also hold the lion's share of the total House nominations won by women, which hit a historic 200 last month. At the time, Republican women—who typically run for office at rates far lower than their female counterparts across the aisle—had only clinched 45 nominations. They've since won seven more, but are still overshadowed by the landslide of Democratic women who will represent their party in November's general elections, leading the efforts on the left to retake the House.

“When you look at this large class of women candidates, it’s obvious, it’s no longer your average white guy in a red tie running,” John Lapp, a former consultant for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), told Politico. "These candidates look and sound different from what we know Congress to be right now, so they start with credibility of being outside of that."

But the story of marginalized groups' ascendancy in the Democratic Party isn't so simple—some women and people of color say they're generating enthusiasm around their campaigns from everyone but the party they hope to represent in office.

A major source of strife for first-time candidates has been the DCCC's Red to Blue list, a list of candidates national Democrats believe have the potential to flip their seats in November. Though the DCCC typically stays out of primaries, this year, the committee has been stepping into messy primary battles and, in some cases, backing middle-of-the-road establishment candidates over more progressive newcomers.

In an early case, the DCCC backed Brad Ashford, a Nebraska state legislator with an anti-choice record, over first-time candidate Kara Eastman, who was running a campaign advocating for Medicare for all, reproductive freedom, and tuition-free college. Despite being the clear pro-choice candidate in the primary race, at the time, she also lacked the support of big-name women's groups like EMILY's List and NARAL Pro-Choice.

"If we had the support of the DCCC, those groups would probably be more likely to support my campaign; I think that's a shame," Eastman told Newsweek in March. "I think there are people who are disappointed and tired of this establishment that seems to be supporting certain candidates over others. The district is craving someone who is a lifelong Democrat—someone who's running on a platform like I am."

In the end, Eastman was right: On her primary night in May, she edged out Ashford by just over 1,000 votes, making her the Democratic Party's nominee in Nebraska's 2nd congressional district.

Others weren't so lucky. Tanzie Youngblood and Tamara Harris, two black women running in New Jersey House districts against DCCC-backed opponents. Neither made it out of their primaries.

“I’ve been very loyal to this party, but I don’t feel the loyalty back,” Youngblood told Newsweek. “They don’t see the value in a candidate like me.”

Getting recognized by national Democrats can make or break a candidate's insurgent campaign, and black women especially are feeling that their candidacies have been unfairly sidelined. Last month, after Connecticut congressional candidate Jahana Hayes won her primary the DCCC added her to its Red to Blue list, making her the third black woman named to the list—out of 73 total candidates.

Hayes, and others who find themselves in a similar position, are trying not to let it get them down.

“People told me I had no chance and I had no business trying to do this,” Hayes said in her August victory speech. “We proved them wrong.”