Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) is one of the Black female representatives expected to be on the way to Washington.
The Nov. 4 general election is expected to produce a record number of Black members of Congress. This will be historic in terms of the number of African women serving, Black Republicans in both chambers at the same time, and an African American with the most seniority of all members.
All of the 44 Blacks serving in the U.S. House and Senate that are running for re-election are expected to win easily. There are four races, however, that will likely increase the number of Black females in the U.S. House of Representatives from 15 to 19.
The new Black female representatives expected to be on their way to Washington are New Jersey Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D), replacing U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.); North Carolina Assemblywoman Alma Adams (D) taking the seat of former representative Mel Watt (D); and former Sarasota Spring, Utah Mayor Mia Love, who could be the first Black female Republican in Congress, would take Jim Matheson’s (D) seat. Stacey Plaskett, an attorney in the Virgin Islands will replace Del. Donna Christensen (D) as her islands’ new delegate, and Southfield, Mich. Mayor Brenda Lawrence (D) will take a new seat for the 14th District in Detroit.
Watson, who would be the second Black representing New Jersey in the U.S. House, said she is ready to take on national issues. “If elected, I don’t intend to go to Congress simply to fight, I intend to go and be the best possible representative I can be for the entirety of the 12th congressional district,” Watson said. “I will fight for our shared values and on behalf of middle class families throughout the district, just as I did in Trenton. I will work with anyone who will help us realize those goals.”
E.Faye Williams, the national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, said she is proud of the progress that Black women are making in Congress. “We were founded to get Black women in the Congress because we know that Black women will make a difference matters pertaining to the Black community,” Williams said. “In the 2012 election, Black women voted at a higher proportion than any other group. We are proud of all the Democratic women running this year.”
Love is running the second time for the U.S. House and was recently endorsed by Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president. She and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) would be the first Black Republican duo in two chambers ever.
Love said that she wants to come to Capitol Hill to see that the country gets on the right course for prosperity. “What we need right now in Washington are tough, consistent, tested leaders who put the American people first,” Love said. “For too long Congress has run up trillion dollar deficits, made promises it cannot keep, and failed to balance the budget. A change is needed, and that’s why I am running to represent Utah’s 4th congressional district in Congress.”
Love doesn’t have Williams’ support. “Ms. Love seems to have forgotten those who created the path that she is on now,” she said. “She embarrasses us.”
The 46 Black Democrats will comprise 25 percent of the House Democratic Caucus. While it is expected Republicans will maintain control of the House, African-American members will be ranking members, or leading Democrats, of committees such as oversight and government reform, science, space and technology, and judiciary.
The ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), will make history on Nov. 4 if he wins re-election. Conyers will become the first Black member of Congress to have the most seniority of all members, with his first election to the House in 1964.
He would be known informally as the dean of the House. Conyers is already considered the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, which he helped to co-found.
Conyers said being the first Black dean of the House is not just symbolic. “It means more political clout for Michigan,” Conyers, 85, said. “It’s more than honorary for me and I think for the people that I’m working for.”
Michael Fauntroy, a Howard University political scientist, said that more Blacks in the House will not make a big difference for African Americans. “The Democrats will likely be in the minority in January and there will be little that they can do to move legislation,” he said. “While Conyers has a long tenure and he will be recognized for it, with the Republicans in control, he will have no real power.”