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8 Black Women Poised to Make History on Election Night

From the U.S. Senate to the state house, a number of women of color are could make history in their respective political races.
California AG Kamala Harris Campaigns For U.S. Senate Seat
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, running for the U.S. Senate, is all smiles after casting her vote at the Kenter Canyon Elementary Charter School Auditorium in Brentwood on June 7, 2016.Genaro Molina / LA Times via Getty Images

As the nation watches and waits for a new candidate ascend to highest office in the land, it's worth noting that the race for the presidency is not the only historic election.

From the U.S. Senate to the state house, a number of women of color are could make history in their respective political races.

Black women are being counted and represented at the polls, but there is still a huge leadership gap. Despite making up 7.4 percent of the U.S. population, Black women are just 3.4 percent of the members of Congress. There are 259 Black women serving in 40 state legislatures across the United States. And there are only three Black women that serve in state-wide executive offices.

It has been almost 20 years since the first Black woman was elected to the U.S. Senate. There have been a record number of Black women elected to the House of Representatives, school boards, state houses and even the Mayor’s office. However, out of the 100 major cities only four Black women serve as Mayors.

Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in congress, who also became the first black woman to run for president from a major political party, once said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."

Here are 8 Black women NBCBLK will be watching on election night.

1. Kamala Harris - California

Kamala Harris was elected California’s first African American and Asian American Attorney General in 2010. Born to an Indian mother and Jamaican American father, Harris attended Howard University before obtaining her law degree from the University of California. She started to obtain national notoriety when it was rumored that President Barack Obama was considering her for the U.S. Attorney General post when Eric Holder announced his resignation in 2014. If elected, Harris could become the second black woman in history to serve in the U.S. Senate.

2. Lisa Blunt Rochester - Delaware

If elected, Lisa Blunt Rochester could make history as the first ever woman and first African American to be elected to Congress from Delaware. Rochester is no stranger to firsts and no stranger to politics. She was the first black woman to serve as Delaware’s Secretary of Labor, and the state's first black Deputy Secretary of Health and Social Services and State Personnel Director. Her father, Ted Blunt, also served as Wilmington City Council president.

3. Val Demings - Florida

Val Demings, running to represent Florida’s 10th congressional district, was chosen as Orlando’s first female police chief in 2007. “If you don’t like something, then you do something to change it,” she says in a video interview about her journey to becoming Orlando’s police chiefs. “Had I not had the courage to put myself out there and not worry if I failed, I would have never been appointed Chief of Police.” Demings appeared with several Democratic women from the U.S. House of Representatives during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer.

4. Linda Coleman - North Carolina

Linda Coleman is seeking a rematch as a candidate for North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor. In 2014, the North Carolina A&T University graduate faced off against the state’s current Lt. Governor, Dan Forest. She lost by about 6,800 votes. The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Coleman in October. “Linda Coleman is a leader who believes in fairness and equality, and HRC is proud to endorse her campaign,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs.

5. Catherine Pugh - Maryland

Catherine Pugh is vying to become the next Mayor of Baltimore. The Morgan State University grad has served as state Senator since 2006. Prior to winning her Senate seat, she served for one year in the House of Delegates in Maryland’s General Assembly and four years as a member of the Baltimore City Council. Pugh faced off a crowded field of candidates, which include former Baltimore Mayor, Sheila Dixon and Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.

6. Attica Scott - Kentucky

Attica Scott has already made history, becoming the first African American Woman to be elected to the Kentucky State Legislature in 20 years. Earlier this year she was victorious in a three person primary race, which solidified her historic moment. The activist mother of two, Scott does not have a Republican challenger. "There's lots of issues we need to address and that's part of my agenda going into Frankfort and building relationships with my colleagues at the state level so that we can get some of this good work done," Scott told NBCBLK in May.

7. Kim Foxx - Illinois

Kim Foxx became the right candidate at the right time. When Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney, came under fire for mishandling the case against Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald during an altercation, it was Foxx who quickly became the favorite to replace her. Endorsed by the likes of John Legend and the former Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, Foxx is a former prosecutor who has also served as Assistant State’s Attorney.

8. Ilhan Omar - Minnesota

While many are focusing on the historic possibilities if Ilhan Omar is elected to the Minnesota State House of Representatives, Omar is focused on something much more important – dispelling the myths of identity politics. "One of the biggest challenges was overcoming the narrative that if you are a minority person running for office, you can only win a seat in a district that is demographically in your favor," Omar told NBCBLK in an interview. "We were making the case that the electorate is actually interested in policy. It's interested in a vision." If she wins her race to be the next state representative of District 60B, Omar will be the first Muslim refugee in elected office, first Somali-American Muslim woman in public office, and first Somali-American state legislator.

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