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2018 Midterms

Primaries in the South Making Potential Historical Firsts for Women of Color in Politics

The new American South’s changing landscape is becoming more apparent in its political candidates.

Duane Paul Murphy

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On Tuesday night, May 22nd, the southern states of Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky held their own primaries for various federal and state offices as the general elections in the fall of November approach American voters. Two states, in particular, Texas and Georgia, are making significant history in electoral politics that are reflecting a changing region where new economies and new demographics are rising up in a place where predominant economic agrarianism, sociopolitical polarization, and racial tensions once dominated its past modern history.

In Texas, the country’s second-largest state by size and population, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez was elected as the Democratic nominee for Texas Governor after a runoff primary race victory against her main opponent, Houston businessman Andrew White. White came in second place last March in the first round of primary voting and the recent runoff primary while running as a centrist moderate. He is also the son of one of the state’s former governors during the 1980s, Mark Wells White, Jr. Running on a progressive platform of abolishing gerrymandering, expanding voting rights, reducing barriers to reproductive healthcare access for women, universal background checks on gun purchases, and expanding public state health programs, Valdez could become the state’s first Latina and openly lesbian governor in its history if elected by defeating incumbent Governor Gregg Abbot.

She would become the country’s third governor from the LGBTQIA+ community after current Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who is openly bisexual, and former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy, who came out as a gay man after sexual harassment controversies while in office. Valdez would also become the country’s second Latina governor after Republican New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. The last time a self-described progressive Democratic female candidate became governor of the Lone Star State was nearly 28 years ago in 1990 with Anne Richards, mother of Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards. The former county sheriff’s candidacy not only reflect changing attitudes with Democratic Party voters at the grassroots level but also a changing Texas where the state is seeing a growth in both population size as well as economic prosperity, especially in urban areas such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Corpus Christi, and various college towns. The cause of the state’s recent population increase has originated from people moving from places like California, the central Midwest, the rural South, and the Atlantic Northeast. The state’s demographics also mirror this political outcome as the non-white population, primarily Black Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinx Americans, continues to grow.

In Georgia, east of Texas, Democratic voters are also making historical gains too as Stacey Abrams, former Georgia state house representative, becomes their party’s nominee for the state’s upcoming gubernatorial election race against Republican nominee Casey Cagle, the current lieutenant governor. As a result of successfully campaigning and organizing younger, female, rural, and non-white Democratic voters for the state’s primary instead of moderate voters, Abrams, who ran on a progressive platform of expanding Medicaid and green job opportunities, could become the state’s and the country’s first female Black American governor in history. Similar to that of what happened in Texas, Georgia is also seeing an out-of-state rise in population, increasing fiscal growth, expanding urban areas such as Atlanta, Savannah, and Augusta, and a changing resident demography of more non-white residents, primarily those of African American, Latino, and Asian descent.

The next set of primaries for this year’s elections are going to be held on June 5th, where states such as California, Iowa, and New Jersey will be in play for both political parties’ control over the federal Congress as well as various state and local office nationwide.

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Duane Paul Murphy is a D.C. college student and student journalist born and raised in Southern California. Currently studying for his bachelor’s in politics and a minor in media studies, Duane Paul is interested in covering domestic as well as international political affairs that impact the lives of everyday people, whether they are young students, professionals, or faculty in higher education.

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