Seven Black leaders elected to political firsts in 2022
Written by Ben Nichols
The November 2022 midterm races saw dozens of candidates from marginalized groups break barriers with their election wins. To celebrate recent contributions to Black history, here’s a spotlight on a few leaders who continue to make an impact with their careers. When Black Americans have fought for centuries against disenfranchisement and oppression, these recent victories represent progress towards a future in which all Americans have a voice in our government.
California - Mayor of Los Angeles
After almost two decades of political service in California, Karen Bass was elected as the first woman and second Black mayor of Los Angeles. She garnered national media attention in 2020 as a potential vice presidential nominee, praised for her leadership and compromise skills. Bass served in the California State Assembly from 2004 to 2010 and as speaker of the Assembly from 2008 to 2010, becoming the first Black woman to lead a state legislature in the U.S. She was recognized with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for her achievements negotiating a California budget during the Great Recession in 2010. Bass went on to represent California’s 37th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving for six terms until her mayoral victory. While in Congress, Bass wrote legislation promoting foster youth welfare, criminal justice reform and humanitarian aid to countries in Africa. In her first months as mayor, Bass has focused on initiatives to provide housing and other support resources for homeless individuals in L.A.
Massachusetts - Attorney General
Former Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell is the first Black woman to serve as attorney general of Massachusetts. As a councilor for Boston’s District 4, she proposed an ordinance which would lead to the creation of the city’s Office of Police Accountability in 2020. Campbell was also the first Black woman to preside over the Boston City Council. She holds degrees from Princeton University and UCLA School of Law, and practiced law for an education nonprofit before entering politics. Campbell was endorsed in the race for attorney general by the previous attorney general, Maura Healey, who was elected in 2022 as the first female governor of Massachusetts and one of the first out lesbian governors in U.S. history. Campbell’s priorities as attorney general include housing security and access to education.
Maxwell Alejandro Frost
Florida - U.S. Representative
Elected at age 25 to represent Florida’s 10th district, Maxwell Alejandro Frost is the first member of Generation Z to hold a seat in Congress. Frost became involved in activism and politics at age 15, in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. He served as the first national organizing director for anti-gun violence nonprofit March for Our Lives, which was founded after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Frost’s campaign drew on his multicultural, Afro-Cuban background with a television ad in Spanish and English, addressing the bilingual voters of his district. His top issues include gun violence, access to healthcare and environmental justice.
New York - House Minority Leader, U.S. Representative
Hakeem Jeffries is the first Black leader of a major political party in Congress. The Democratic caucus elected him as successor to Nancy Pelosi, who broke barriers in 2007 as the first woman elected speaker of the House. Jeffries has represented New York’s 8th district since 2013. Before he was elected to Congress, he served for six years in the New York State Assembly. Jeffries is known for promoting open communication with his constituents, including through his annual State of the District address. Widely regarded as a centrist in the House, he has co-sponsored several bills working with Republicans, including the Veterans and Family Information Act and the Patents for Humanity Act of 2022. Jeffries is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and previously served as CBC whip. His legislative priorities include intellectual property law and access to affordable housing.
Pennsylvania - U.S. Representative
Summer Lee is the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives. In 2018, she became the first Black woman from southwestern Pennsylvania elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, serving for two terms. She won two contests in November — the U.S. House race in the 12th district, as well as reelection to the Pennsylvania House in the 34th district — and ultimately resigned to accept the U.S. House seat. Lee graduated from the Howard University School of Law. She has been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. While a member of the Pennsylvania House, Lee co-sponsored legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of natural and protective Black hairstyles. Her other legislative priorities include reproductive rights and disability justice.
Maryland - Governor
U.S. Army captain, author and philanthropist Wes Moore is the first Black governor of Maryland and the third Black governor elected in the United States. His book “The Other Wes Moore” received national acclaim for contrasting the author’s experiences and successes with the life of another Black man from Maryland, also named Wes Moore, in a narrative which emphasizes the importance of personal role models and community support. Moore studied as a Rhodes Scholar, served in the Army from 1998 to 2014 and worked as CEO of the New York City charity, The Robin Hood Foundation from 2017 to 2021. He supports enacting measures against redlining and housing inequity, protecting the right to abortion in the Maryland Constitution and federally expanding healthcare benefits for wounded veterans.
Georgia - U.S. Senator
After a nail-biting runoff during the 2020 election, the Rev. Raphael Warnock became the first Black American to represent Georgia in the Senate. Because he won his seat in a special election, Warnock soon faced a second race, this time against Republican Herschel Walker. Despite Walker’s multiple scandals, polling remained close until Warnock finally won his second consecutive runoff with 50.4% of the vote. Before running for office, Warnock was an advocate for social justice through his role as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church previously led by Martin Luther King Jr. Warnock is a prominent voice in the Black protest tradition of today, who was once arrested for his leadership role in a demonstration to expand Medicaid in Georgia. As a self-identified “pro-choice pastor,” he has supported abortion access and marriage equality, while advocating against gun violence and capital punishment.