Yet the DCCC was already criticized earlier this year for not having a single African American candidate on its “Red to Blue” list, a program designed to give extra financial and organizational support to top Democrats running in districts currently held by Republicans. Since then, the organization has added three to the growing program, including Lauren Underwood, running in Illinois’s 14th. Underwood is the only African American woman on the list—and the only one of 43 African American women House candidates to receive official DCCC backing, according to a recent Axios report. In the past week, I spoke with the other nine black women who are non-incumbent candidates, and who have won their primary races for Congress so far in 2018. Five said that the DCCC had not reached out to them at all to offer support, or even a congratulatory message. One candidate told me she received an email suggesting that the DCCC would “like to keep an eye” on her race. Two said the campaign arm had called to offer advice. One did not respond to my requests for comment.
The Democratic Party isn’t necessarily excluding black women deliberately, but it does seem to employ strategies that are routinely made to support a certain type of candidate, in a certain type of place—and make others feel left out.
“I have yet to receive one red cent from the local, the state, or the national party,” Lake told me. “I understand the formula, I just feel like it’s a broken system. You can’t take time and meet with the people running on your platform, spending their own money to promote Democratic ideals? The optics look bad.” Lake, who is running against Greg Pence, the older brother of Vice President Mike Pence, is in for a difficult race: The district has an R+18 rating from the Cook Political Report, which means that in the previous two presidential elections, the district’s results were 18 percentage points more Republican than the national average. But, Lake is confident she can win.
“I’m not your standard anything,” she told me in another conversation on Facebook. “1) I’m a woman in a year where women are ticked off and are going to the polls in record numbers 2) I’m a black woman in a year where minority women are winning in places they’ve never run before.”
Ohio Democrat Vanessa Enoch, who recently won in the state’s 8th congressional district, said she called the DCCC for advice during her campaign, and they never returned her call. Enoch recently received an email from a staffer for Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum, the DCCC Vice Chair for the Midwest, offering to “keep an eye” on her race. The email was addressed “To Whom It May Concern.” Enoch acknowledges that she is currently running in a heavily Republican district that hasn’t elected a Democrat in decades. “But it is a bit frustrating because you’re left out there to sink or swim,” she told me. “I’m kind of on my own.”