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The year of the black woman?

This year, African-American women are running for office in record numbers, and for some it is a clear shot to political power. These women are bolstered by the clout of black women throughout the country casting ballots to propel their sisters toward victory.

As of May. 170 women were running for Congress, 20 for the U.S. Senate and 150 for seats in the House of Representatives, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Women's Political Caucus. Of that group, close to 20 were African-American women. At present, four of the 26 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are women, and the CBC may gain three new female members this year.

In addition, for the first time in history, an African-American woman, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, has a good chance of winning a Senate seat. Braun, the Cook County recorder of deeds, is running against Republican challenger lawyer Richard Williamson. A victory would make her the first black Democratic Senator. Braun's March win in the state's primary over Sen. Alan J. Dixon was a shocking upset.

David Bositis, senior research associate of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, says the explosion of female candidates is due to several factors. The Voting Rights Act has pushed for the maximizing voting strength, so more black districts have been set up. One is the 30th Congressional district in Dallas, where state Sen. Eddie Bernice Johnson may capture a seat.

Bositis says, black women have won school board and other seats. These women, who cut their political teeth on the local level, are now ready for larger campaigns.

Finally, female ire at the Senate's handling of the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill case, convinced some women to act. Braun, was encouraged to enter the race by liberal activists after Dixon voted to support Thomas' nomination.

Sonia Jarvis, executive director of the National Coalition on Black Voter Participation, says although black women generally throw their support behind politicians who have worked in the community and on women's issues, the road to elected office is rough. Their campaigns are often plagued by funding worries, dismissed by male power brokers and sometimes by women voters as well. Johnson, 56, has encountered and beaten such odds, since 1972. Recently, she won 92% of the vote in her congressional primary. But 20 years ago, women did not embrace her state representative bid. She won the race, but she recalls that "it was difficult for some women to see it as a woman's job."

Women's groups assist. Braun and Johnson have received funding from EMILY's List, a political donor group that gives money to pro-choice Democratic women candidates. This year, EMILY's List, which stands for Early Money is Like Yeast (it makes the dough rise), raised $1 million. But no large network like EMILY's List exists among blacks. "That's ironic," Johnson says. "The black community expects that you are on the case for them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you cannot depend on them for their contributions."

African-American women are cursed and blessed by the political process. "There are a number of places where white voters, especially white women, are more likely to vote for a black woman than black man or a white man," Bositis says. "That's one of the reasons why Carol Braun did as well as she did. She doesn't make white voters nervous."

Braun makes Chicago Mayor Richard Daley shake, however. "Daley is going to go all out for her for a very good reason," Bositis says. "If she's not elected senator, she'll be running for mayor of Chicago against him a few years."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:African American women in politics
Author:Dumas, Kitty
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Previous Article:The recruitment game.
Next Article:Switching gears.

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