Earlier in the month, Washington publications sliced and diced the latest fund-raising numbers from House and Senate candidates for clues as to what they could mean for the midterm elections later this year.
But beyond the horse race analysis was a more interesting fact: In 2021, for the first time since the Federal Election Commission began keeping track, Black candidates topped both Democrat and Republican lists of biggest Senate fund-raisers in a quarter.
For the last three quarters, Black candidates have been the top fund-raisers in their respective parties. And four Black candidates ranked among the top five money-raisers for the last three months of 2021.
Leading all Senate fund-raising during the most recent quarter was incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. He raised an eye-popping $9.8 million with the hope he can be reelected for a full term to the Georgia seat he won just a year ago.
Behind Warnock in fund-raising was Senator Mark Kelly, a white man, who, like Warnock, is in a key battleground race to keep his seat for a full term. The Arizona Democrat raised $8.9 million. Third in overall fund-raising was Florida Representative Val Demings, a Black woman, who is challenging Republican Marco Rubio for his Senate seat this year. She raised $7.2 million.
For Senate Republicans, the two candidates that raised more than anyone, including the likes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and the Trump-backed Georgia candidate Herschel Walker, both of whom are Black.
Scott, who might be eyeing a 2024 presidential run, raised $7 million during that period. Walker, a former NFL star, raised $5.3 million.
That so many Black candidates are raising so much money isn’t some fluke to this particular election cycle. It is really an indication of how many more Black candidates there are running in very competitive races.
The Senate stands evenly divided at 50-50 and the stakes are high for who controls the upper chamber after the midterm elections. Even if Republicans take the House majority, as many experts predict will happen, the fate of Democratic control in the Senate is less clear. Which party controls the Senate can alone decide which judges President Biden can get on the court and which ambassadors and Cabinet members can get approved.
Notably, after the 2018 midterm elections, Trump didn’t even fill a number of vacant cabinet positions because, among other reasons, his choices may have had a tough time getting confirmed in a Democratic led-Senate.
But the 2022 elections don’t stand alone as a rare year when Black Senate candidates raised record-shattering amounts of money. In the 2020 elections, South Carolina Senate candidate Jamie Harrison and Kentucky Senate candidate Charles Booker, both Black, had moments of major fund-raising. But this year there are just more Black candidates. For example, in another competitive Senate race, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, a Black man, led the field in fund-raising last quarter, out-raising incumbent Senator Ron Johnson, who is seeking reelection.
In North Carolina, Cheri Beasley, a Black woman and longtime former judge, is facing little competition to be the Democratic nominee for an open Senate seat. Though the Republican headwinds in a state that Trump won twice suggest fund-raising dollars could go to more competitive states.
All of that said, the fact that Black candidates are raising so much money currently stands in such drastic contrast to the fact that only 11 Black people have ever served in the Senate.