BY: ADISA HARGETTROBINSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Congress has historically been overwhelmingly white and male, but House races in Florida’s 24th Congressional District and Georgia’s 5th district mark a diversity rarity — there are only Black women on those ballots.
“I am happy to see more Black women running than ever before,” said Lavern Spicer, a Republican running in Florida’s 24th district.
The late civil rights icon John Lewis represented Georgia’s 5th district starting in 1987. After his death, State Senator and Georgia Democratic Party chair Nikema Williams was appointed to run in Lewis’ place for the Democratic Party.
Running to replace Lewis from the Republican side is Angela Stanton-King.
In Florida, incumbent Frederica Wilson has represented the district since 2011. Lavern Spicer is Wilson’s Republican challenger and Christine Olivo is her independent challenger.
In 2018, Congress added a historic number of women: 102 in the House and 25 in the Senate. In this upcoming election, a record number of women are running for Congress with 298 on the ballot and 61 of them are Black women.
Currently there are 24 Black women in Congress out of 435 members. Only 47 Black women have ever served in Congress.
According to a Pew Research Center poll, 87% of African Americans align with the Democratic Party, but this year has also seen a record number of Black Republicans running for Congress.
Similarities in the districts
Constituents in both Georgia’s 5th district and Florida’s 24th district are over 50% Black and are overwhelming Democratic. In fact, they are two of the largest Democratic strongholds in the South. In both districts, less than 15% of the electorate voted for Trump and are registered Republicans.
Nonetheless, Stanton-King and Spicer say they are running because they believe change is needed.
“This year I have seen more Black Republicans running than ever before … all of our leaders have been Black Democrats, and they have totally let us down,” said Spicer, a cosmetologist, entrepreneur and political newcomer running in Florida.
Stanton-King echoed that sentiment. “We are living on the poverty side. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans, it’s about supporting the Black community,” she said.
“I think people are tired of the divisiveness … we have representatives that are Democrat and Republican and they are not bringing anything back into the communities,” said Christine Olivio, a Red Cross volunteer and political newcomer running in Florida’s 24th district as an independent.
“It’s kind of hurtful … people associate Republican with being racist … and the last thing I want from the very people I am fighting for,” Stanton-King said.
While both districts have a high African American population, Florida has an emerging Latino population that Georgia does not have. “It was mostly African American, but it’s no longer, probably almost half Hispanic. So with that change political change is gonna come,” Spicer said.
According to the Census Bureau, 29.5% of the population is Hispanic. In 2016 about 30% of Hispanics voted for Trump, compared with 11% of African Americans. While the Cook political report currently lists the district as “Democrat,” changing demographics could change the political climate.
Since all of the women are Black, and the seats were previously held by African Americans, the results will not affect the racial diversity of Congress. However, running on a ballot with all Black women is still rare, something Spicer recognizes.
“This is truly a movement that is taking pace. I believe a lot of Black women are waking up,” she said.
However, Olivo said she has faced backlash for running against two other Black women.
“A lot of people were like, ‘how can you run against another Black woman?’ There is almost this assumption that if there is already a Black women don’t challenge them … but we shouldn’t be afraid to run against each other, I’m running to take what she (Wilson) had done to the next level,” said Olivo.
Stanton-King stresses it is not about “tearing another Black woman down.”
“I think Black women should come together … If I’m not the winner I would love to sit down and share ideas … I think we can show unity even if we don’t agree,” said Stanton-King.
ABC News’ Julia Cherner contributed to this report.
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