Report: Black Candidates Blame Democratic Party for 2022 Losses

Party's weak support was 'painful example of how candidates of color continue to face questions about their ability to win'

Failed Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes (Getty Images)
February 14, 2023

Black Democratic candidates who failed to unseat Republican incumbents in 2022 are blaming their own party, saying Democratic groups lack "trust" in minority candidates.

Aides for failed Senate candidate Mandela Barnes, who lost to Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) by 1 percentage point, say the lack of support from the Democratic Party infrastructure is a "painful example of how candidates of color continue to face questions about their ability to win," Politico reported.

"If we were able to communicate at the same levels as Ron Johnson, Mandela Barnes would be in the United States Senate today," Barnes's campaign manager Kory Kozloski said, alleging a lack of support from Democratic super PACs.

Democrats also lamented the defeats of Cheri Beasley and Val Demings, who ran for U.S. Senate in North Carolina and Florida, respectively. Demings lost her race to Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) by 16 points, while Beasley lost to Sen. Ted Budd (R., N.C.) by 3 points.

"Given the right investment they both could have won," Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.) said of the Democratic candidates. "There's no doubt that Black women have the highest systemic barriers to success." Lee attributed these defeats to "smaller donor networks, less organizational support, and more barriers to entry."

Candidates aimed criticism at major PACs that support Democrats such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Sen. Gary Peters (D., Mich.), who chairs the committee, denied allegations that the PAC withheld support from black candidates.

"In Wisconsin, we provided major support," Peters said. "I was very excited about all of them. But part of the problem was just that they were running in challenging states."

The DSCC spent $3 million to campaign against Johnson.

Barnes and Demings were among the top fundraisers of congressional candidates in 2022, raising more than $41.6 million and $79.5 million for their respective campaigns. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) was the top fundraiser, pulling in about $180.9 million in campaign funds. 

Still, Democratic representatives say that black Democratic candidates faced unique obstacles, unlike their GOP counterparts. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.) called for political solidarity of black Americans and criticized alleged barriers for black candidates. 

"Generally speaking what I’ve seen since I’ve gotten here is not enough Black unity across the country, from a political perspective, and not a strong enough Black political infrastructure to support Black candidates across the country," Bowman said.