There are nine African Americans on the ballot running in compelling races on Tuesday. They are Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Baltimore Mayoral candidates Sheila Dixon, State Senator Catherine Pugh and DeRay Mckesson and congressional candidates Will Jawando, Glenn Ivey and Anthony Brown. There is also a interesting primary race between Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and State Representative Dwight Evans for Pennsylvania's second congressional district.
The outcomes of several of these races could be a signal that a new generation of African American elected officials is breaking though a generational ceiling, or the outcomes could be a sign that voters are choosing the status quo of established leadership.
Former Obama Administration official Will Jawando is running in a crowded field with eight other Democrats to fill the congressional seat in Maryland's 8th district now occupied by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Jawando, 33, is the youngest of those candidates and is one of many emerging millennial candidates appearing on ballots across the U.S. this election cycle. Van Hollen is running to fill the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski.
For that U.S. Senate seat, Van Hollen, who started in the House in 2003, and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) are in a race to be the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator. If the more progressive Edwards prevails she would be only the second African American woman in the U.S. Senate in history, the last one, Carol Moseley Braun, left the Senate in 1999.
In Maryland's 4th congressional district, which Edwards currently serves in, well regarded former State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey is viewed as the front runner in a race that includes former Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and four other Democratic candidates. Brown is looking for a political comeback after losing to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in 2014. Much like the Edwards vs. Van Hollen race for Maryland's U.S. Senate seat, the winner in the 4th district primary is all but certain to serve in Congress next year.
In Pennsylvania's 2nd congressional district, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) is running in what polls indicate is a close race with longtime State Representative Dwight Evans. After a seven year investigation by federal prosecutors, Fattah and several others were indicted on July 29, 2015 for allegedly redirecting money to return the favor of a campaign loan for the 2007 race for Mayor of Philadelphia. Evans, who has been a State Representative since 1981, is the first serious primary challenger Fattah has faced since he entered Congress in 1995.
In Baltimore, Md., polls show that the race for Mayor is down to two African American female candidates: former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and State Senator Catherine Pugh. Both Dixon and Pugh are well known to Baltimore voters with a combined time in elected office of over thirty years. Pugh is slightly ahead of Dixon in recent polls but no one would be surprised if Dixon, a former Mayor known for good constituent service, pulled off the win. High turnout in early voting and on election day due to the presidential primary should make the race very close.
The Baltimore race for Mayor features another compelling story: nationally known activist DeRay Mckesson. The Black Lives Matter activist became well known after his twitter dispatches showed protests against police brutality to the the world in Ferguson after teenager Michael Brown, Jr. was shot by a Ferguson Police Officer in August 2014. Mckesson is now attempting to bring his activism and interest in policy details to electoral politics. Whether he wins or loses it will be interesting to see how much support he receives in a city long known for the types of systemic problems many in the Black Lives Matter movement have focused on.