The Year of the (Black) Woman?

A handful of Democratic candidates who lost primaries a couple of weeks ago are not handling defeat with stately reserve. If it were one or two, I’d dismiss it. But there’s a trend. Though the ballots have been counted, some Black women not named Stacey Abrams aren’t quite done campaigning. Black women are the key constituency of the party, so I watch the expressions of frustration turning toxic with trepidation, wondering if this toxicity will drive voters away in November. For the moment, it’s been limited to the echo chamber of Democratic party circles and I’d like to believe it won’t matter in a month or two. But it’s worth noting now.

Triana Arnold-James lost the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor by 50,000 votes on 500,000 cast. She has yet to concede the race or meaningfully acknowledge her opponent — because she believes Sarah Riggs Amico has somehow disrespected her — and requested a recount. The Secretary of State’s office denied the request. James said she intends to appeal.

James is … well, what I said she was before the election. “a vanity candidate who is utterly unqualified for the job and would likely provide a political punchline during the general election.”

Her current conduct reinforces my opinion. She’s a 47-year-old woman parading to political events in a beauty queen tiara and sash like it means something from a pay-to-win pageant that issues 30 a year. (The “reigning Mrs. Georgia Classy,” for the handful people in this state who care about such things.)

Does the lieutenant governor’s race have a talent competition?

I would like to believe the race is more than a stage upon which the pathological narcissism of a fringe party fixture can draw attention to herself. We have an actual, serious, non-laughing stock candidate who will need support in a close election in November.

James thinks the 225,000 or so votes she received entitles her to respect. James lost, fair and square, by 10 points — the 10 percent of the electorate who were actually paying attention. More than 70 percent of voters were undecided about this race going into May, which is to say, most voters manifestly did not give a damn about who was running and picked blind. Triana would be hard pressed to find one person in 40 who recognizes her name in a random sample of Kroger shoppers on North Decatur Road. We wonder how the Republican Party manages to elect extremists like Jody Hice to high office. It’s not hard to figure. People aren’t paying attention. We think Democrats are better than that. We’re not.

I refer those who believe otherwise to Sandra Bullock, the well-named non-celebrity and since-withdrawn winner of the Democratic primary for House District 40.

Consider Tamara Johnson-Shealey, loser of the Democratic primary for State Senate district 40 — Fran Millar’s seat — who is actively calling for people to “withhold the vote.” It’s one of the more embarrassing displays by a failed candidate. It attacks a core pillar of the Democratic Party — robust voter participation — without apparent regard for the personal consequences or the consequences to the district she intended to represent. I can’t say that it jeopardizes Sally Harrell’s chances in November because I don’t think voters are paying any attention to a candidate who lost a two-person primary two to one.

But she’s trying to draw voters to “White and Woke: How Do I Wake Up Other White People,” a $200-a-seat white guilt retreat where she will regale the electorate with a vivid description of their error for not nominating her. “You suck. That’ll be $200.” It’s hilarious. I think some people might actually pay her.

Or consider Sabrina McKenzie, who challenged State. Sen. Steve Henson in the Democratic primary. Despite having about $15,000 in county tax liens on her house over the last three years — which should be disqualifying — a campaign that relied on prevarication and naked racial appeals to black voters, a history of anti-gay commentary and a ludicrous pro-se accusation of bribery(?) and harassment in DeKalb Superior Court that was swiftly dismissed, McKenzie stunned the district with the breathtaking closeness of the race. She lost by 111 votes on more than 13,000 cast.

She called for a recount. Frankly, that’s reasonable given the spread. It makes nothing she did during the race more reasonable. The recount, predictably, changed nothing. Short of a payment this month, I expect her home to be sold on the courthouse steps in July. Perhaps I will bid for it.

It would be one thing if James’ protest were tied to some well-articulated call for reforming the Democratic Party, which is sclerotic and poorly organized, filled with inside baseball, conflicts of interests and resistance to real connection with progressive grass roots.

But … it’s not. James’ display is attention-seeking egotism from a chaser of titles. We’re seeing dangerous amounts of that in the party right now.

I think it’s important to acknowledge where some of this is coming from. Black women are the most loyal Democratic constituency in America. Only about one in 16 Black women gave their vote to someone other than Hillary Clinton two years ago. They form the backbone of Democratic activism in Georgia. Four years ago, the entire slate of Democratic nominees for constitutional officers — aside from Jason Carter — was composed of black women.

One light: Jody Hice will face Tabitha Johnson Green — the only black woman running for Congress in Georgia this round — for the 10th congressional seat. But this year was a near shutout for black women running for statewide constitutional offices, aside from Stacey Abrams and Janice Laws, running for Insurance Commissioner. Some black women running in metro Atlanta weren’t able to ride the pro-woman wave into a nomination. About 70 percent of the Democratic Party’s voters, more than half of which are black and more than half of which are women, gave their vote to Stacy Abrams in a historic election, then slid down the ballot to other black women running and said not you. I get how that might rankle.

The question is, who is really rankled? If it’s the candidates … well, we’ll live. If their ire becomes the public’s ire … well, we’ll see.

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Dave Bearsebethebalance Recent comment authors
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An excellent piece.
For anyone like me that may need to look it up–
sclerotic: rigid and unresponsive; losing the ability to adapt.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Must be present (on the ballot) to win. I gave Tamara Johnson-Shealey credit for running as a Dem in SD40 when (in my recollection) nobody else wanted to in 2016, as well as running in 2014. She’s dead in the water in any future primaries as far as I’m concerned if she’s chanting “withhold the vote”. Forgive the following if it’s too off topic. I, an SD40 citizen, was a Harrell supporter out of the gate anyway though, Harrell having been my House Representative nearly two decades ago. In the 22 May primary, there were 9,121 collective Dem ballots in… Read more »