In an ideal world, politicians win seats because their values most closely match those of their electorate. But in reality, the candidate who raises the most money usually has the greatest success. In the male-dominated political world, black female candidates face the greatest challenge. This is why a group of women joined together two years ago to create The Women Building for the Future Political Action Committee, or The Future PAC (www.futurepac.com), as it is known. The group wants to ensure that the ideals and issues of the black, female voting bloc are represented-from city hall to the hallowed halls of Congress.
“Black women face many hurdles seeking public office,” says Democratic operative Donna Brazile. “One is name recognition, two is lack of support because the ‘old-boy network’ tends to endorse other males, and three is financial. Our objective is to try to help women overcome one of the major barriers-financial-which will hopefully break down the other two.”
“African American women are the strongest ethnic voting bloc in the nation. But out of the 435 members of Congress, there are 15 African American women. There are no African American men or women in the Senate. When you look at the 7,382 state legislators, 189 are black women,” says Minyon Moore, a Washington, D.C.-based political strategist and public affairs consultant, and former COO of the Democratic National Committee. “We felt it was incumbent upon us to help those who want to put their families on hold and readjust their lives to run for public office.”
The Future PAC has endorsed one candidate so far: Mississippi State Senator Barbara Blackmon, who won her primary race for lieutenant governor but lost the election. The group gave $10,000 to Blackmon’s campaign. However, The Future PAC hopes to raise a million dollars during the 2004 election cycle, which would include the campaign of presidential hopeful Carol Moseley Braun (if she meets certain Federal requirements to receive financial support from the group).
According to political analyst David Bositis with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, blacks accounted for 10% of all votes cast in the last presidential election. Of that 10%, 60% were women voters. “Since 1998, the increase in the number of black elected officials has come from women,” he says.
Despite the political gains of African Americans in winning office, the community has not developed a tradition of making political donations. A study funded by the Citizens Research Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in Berkeley, California, found that, in the last presidential election, African American and Hispanic neighborhoods accounted for less than 2% of the contributions made to the top four candidates.
Most of the money The Future PAC has raised comes from memberships, fundraising events, and donations from groups and individuals. “The African American community isn’t known for contributing to candidates as a rule, so it’s a learning experience in terms of educating our community on how important it is to finance candidates who represent [their] interests,” says Gwen Moore, chair of The Future PAC’s board.