2020 Elections Diversified State Legislatures Like Never Before

A report from the Donors of Color Network and The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) reveals major improvements in representation for BIPOC in government.

donors of color
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

In the past, a prevalent political myth has been that white candidates have more electability and viability than candidates of color. This has led to a dangerous narrative that perpetuates subpar amounts of investment in candidates of color and their campaigns. Additionally, it pushed that white candidates were presumed to win elections.

A new report from Donors of Color and DLCC shows how the 2020 elections more than disproved this narrative. In 2020, we had the highest number of candidates of color elected into state legislator positions in the entire history of the country. This is no small feat to have accomplished, and quite a few factors went into making it possible.

Donors of Color Doing Collaborative Work to Achieve Success

To start, this enormous shift in leadership is partially due to a partnership between The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and Donors of Color Action Network. The pair have been working to make a difference in the overwhelmingly white male governmental representation that we are accustomed to. 

Specifically, Donors of Color is responsible for the creation of a multi-million dollar Power Fund in 2020 that was dedicated to supporting candidates of color in their campaigns at both the local and state level.

2020 saw a shocking difference to previous elections. Candidates of color won at a higher rate than their white counterparts. The democratic win rate was roughly 54%, and when broken down by race, the candidate of color win rate was roughly 75%. In addition to seeing a much higher win rate, candidates of color made up a larger part of all candidates than was seen in previous years. 

Notably, the Democratic party has always had far more diversity in their candidates than the Republican party. Where the Democratic party had more than a thousand candidates of color, the Republican party had only a few hundred.

Barriers for candidates of color still need to be addressed going forward

Although this progress is exceptional, systemic barriers still exist that hold back candidates of color. This trend exists primarily within the state elections, as these are far easier for candidates of color to win. This is because state campaigns require far less investment than national elections. This helps to partially eliminate the systemic financial barrier candidates of color face. 

Even considering this, there is still a considerable financial barrier to overcome in state elections. Most states suffer from a gap in who can afford to run due to the fact that they do not offer competitive or full time salaries. State legislative campaigns also receive less funding than other levels of election. That being said, state legislation is where most effect is seen in the average American’s life. 

Diversity in the government, especially state legislatures, is important in order to ensure progressive policies that serve the community. Previously underrepresented demographics thrive from this. More diversity in state leadership has also been observed to provide higher quality health care and better support for low-income citizens. 

The fight continues on the national level

The rise of candidates of color being majorly successful in state legislation is an important push that would be useful to be seen in national legislature as well. By extension, diversity in that bracket of election seats will help further the spread of inclusive policies across the country. At the moment, elections for seats such as those in Congress tend to be reserved for the privileged few with enough wealth to get there.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and Donors of Color Action Network partnership have plans to continue their work into 2021 and 2022. Overcoming racially-charged myths about leadership and funding candidates of color have is an essential building block toward removing barriers and achieving a representative democracy. If the 2020 election cycle is anything to go by, the future holds much promise for more equal representation in US government. 


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Author: Kimberly Pike

Kimberly Pike is a writer, artist and self proclaimed cat lady living in Rhode Island. She is passionately writing about women's issues and helping to teach others about it.

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