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Making history: Here are the critical midterm races impacting black America

Here are the most critical races and issues impacting black Americans in the 2018 midterms.
Image: Stacey Abrams Lucy McBath Antonio Delgado
Stacey Abrams Lucy McBath Antonio DelgadoEPA/Getty Images/ AP

NBC BLK is taking a look at the most critical races and issues during today's midterm elections. Below is a brief overview of those contests and how they may impact black America.


Lucy McBath, a gun control activist and first-time candidate, was inspired by the murder of her son Jordan Davis — who was shot and killed in Florida in 2012 — to run for office. McBath hopes to unseat Rep. Karen Handel (R), who defeated Jon Ossoff last year in a closely watched race in Georgia’s 6th Congressional district—the seat Newt Gingrich once held.

Competing for the seat Sen. Thad Cochran (R-AL) vacated, former Clinton Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy hopes to become the first African-American U.S. Senator from Mississippi since Blanche Bruce left office in 1881, and the first Democratic Senator from Mississippi in nearly four decades. Mississippi has the highest percentage of black residents of any state in the country at nearly 40 percent. Espy has two Republican opponents in the special election, with a runoff system and high black turnout mirror the Doug Jones race in Alabama providing a possible pathway to victory. National Democrats have faced criticism for ignoring the two Mississippi Senate seats up for reelection.

Ilhan Omar, Minnesota’s first Somali-American state representative, would become the first Somali-American woman elected to Congress if she defeats her opponent in Minnesota’s 5th District. Omar — who escaped war in Somalia as a child and lived in a Kenyan refugee camp — and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) are also poised to become the first Muslim Women on Capitol Hill. The first black woman elected to the Boston City Council, Ayanna Pressley is running in the 7th Congressional District in Massachusetts. She would become the first black woman elected to the House from that state.

A former public health nurse, Lauren Underwood is the youngest black woman running for Congress, and the first black woman nominated in a race for Illinois’ 14th District. Running on healthcare, Underwood leads in a race where GOP opponent Randy Hultgren questioned her nursing credentials.

Jahana Hayes, winner of the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, could become the first black woman to represent Congress in Connecticut if she wins her 17th district race.

A Rhodes Scholar and Harvard-trained lawyer who was called a “big-city rapper” in GOP racial attack ads, Antonio Delgado is running against the Trump-endorsed Republican Rep. John Faso (R-NY) in New York’s 19th District. If Delgado pulls away from Faso in this tight race, he will become the first non-white representative in the Hudson Valley/Catskills area district.

In Texas, the charismatic Beto O’Rourke hopes to pull an upset against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to become the first Democratic senator in the Lone Star State since Lloyd Bentsen. With a record 15.6 million people registered to vote in the midterms, Texas is one of four “majority-minority” states in which people of color outnumber whites, with rising Latino and black populations threatening to turn this deep-red state purple, and ultimately blue.

Other rising stars are Obama-endorsed Iowa secretary of state candidate Deidre DeJear, the first black nominee for a statewide race in Iowa, and Wisconsin assemblyman Mandela Barnes, who would become the state’s first lieutenant governor and has called Trump’s immigration policy a “race to create a superior race.”


Three gubernatorial candidates hope to make history as black firsts in their respective states, and transform the politics of the South.

In Florida, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum leads his pro-Trump opponent, former Rep. Ron DeSantis, creating a surge of voter enthusiasm that appears to benefit the reelection prospects of Sen. Bill Nelson in his race against Gov. Rick Scott.

Former NAACP head Ben Jealous is challenging Gov. Larry Hogan in Maryland, and Stacey Abrams could become the first black governor of Georgia and the first black woman governor in American history. Her opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has been sued for purging one tenth of the state’s voters, and has made unsubstantiated eleventh-hour claims the Democrats have attempted to hack the state election system.


Concerns about criminal justice reform have brought more attention to races for state attorney general and district attorney.

Sean Shaw, a member of the Florida House of Representatives, is up against Republican Trump supporter Ashley Moody in a tight race for Florida Attorney General. Shaw is running on a pro-consumer rights, pro-environment, gun control, civil rights and anti-corruption platform.

Poised to become Suffolk County (Boston) district attorney, Rachael Rollins is a progressive reformer in the mold of Kim Foxx in Chicago and Larry Krasner in Philadelphia. She has pledged to decline to prosecute 15 low-level nonviolent offenses. Meanwhile, in a win for Black Lives Matter, Ferguson councilman Wesley Bell won his primary against Robert McColloch for St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney, and runs unopposed in the general election.

As the current Public Advocate of New York City, Letitia James is a candidate for New York State Attorney General. She would become the first black woman to hold a statewide office in New York.

The first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) faces domestic abuse allegations in a close race to become the first African-American attorney general of Minnesota.

In a contentious, multimillion dollar race for Nevada attorney general, black Senate majority leader Aaron Ford is a gun sense candidate with endorsements from Moms Demand Action and EveryTown for Gun Safety. A consumer protection lawyer and supporter of progressive policies such as minimum wage and paid sick leave, Ford has accused opponent Wes Duncan of knowingly taking contributions from an accused rapist.

Ballot initiatives

Over 150 ballot initiatives are up for a vote across the nation, including measures to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan and North Dakota, and medicinal marijuana in Missouri and Utah.

A Florida proposal would restore voting rights to more than 1.5 million people with a felony conviction in the critical swing state. Voters will consider ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska, and redistricting proposals to outlaw gerrymandering through independent commissions are under consideration in Michigan, Utah, Missouri, and Colorado.