Stacey Abrams made American history on Tuesday (May 22) when she won the Democratic primary for governor in Georgia, making her the first black female gubernatorial candidate nominated by a major party.
If she pulls off a victory in November against the Republican nominee, who will be decided in a runoff in July, the former state House minority leader will have a number of firsts to her name: the first female governor in Georgia, the first black governor of the state, and the first black woman elected governor in the US.
(Though she was not elected,Barbara Jordan in 1972 briefly served as the first female and first black governor of Texas when governor Preston Smith and lieutenant governor Ben Barnes were both out of the state on the same day.)
Abrams, of course, still faces an uphill battle in the deep South, which hasn’t elected an African-American governor since reconstruction. As the New York Times points out, she’ll need strong turnout from black voters to stand a chance in November. In Georgia, non-Hispanic white voters comprise 53% of the population and have traditionally voted in strong numbers.
“Tonight’s victory was only the beginning,” said Abrams in a Facebook post. “The road to November will be long and tough, but the next step is one we take together.”
Cory Booker moved a step closer to becoming New Jersey’s first African-American U.S. senator Tuesday when voters gave the Newark mayor a wide victory in the Democratic primary. Booker will face Republican Steve Lonegan, former mayor of Bogota, N.J., in a special election October 16. Turnout was low for the special election, which was necessitated by the death of Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg in June at age 89.
Booker leveraged his national name into prodigious fundraising: with the help of friends like Oprah Winfrey and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, he brought in more than $8.6 million, well ahead of his rivals. Booker defeated two members of the state’s congressional delegation, Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, as well as Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. “This is our victory – thank you. Please continue to run with me,” Booker tweeted to his 1.4 million Twitter followers shortly after he was declared the winner.
Booker argued that his high profile would allow him to be more effective in Washington. “I find ways to break through the noise of the country and more effectively advocate and get things done,” he told the Asbury Park Press last month. In his victory speech in Secaucus Tuesday night, Lonegan said Booker was “anointed by Hollywood” and the candidate of “Silicon Valley moguls” who want to make him California’s third U.S. senator, the Associated press reported.
Booker, 44, was the front-runner from the moment he indicated in December that he wanted to run — even before Lautenberg had declared whether he intended to run for re-election. Lautenberg ultimately said he would not run, then died in June, setting up the special election. Booker’s choice to run for Senate disappointed Democrats who hoped he would take on popular Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is up for re-election in November.