Amy McGrath, Stacey Abrams, and Lupe Valdez

staceyabrams/Twitter LupeValdez/Twitter AmyMcGrathKY/Twitter Remix by Samantha Grasso

Voters show up for Democratic women in Southern primaries, runoff elections

Democratic women are making firsts.


Samantha Grasso


Published May 23, 2018   Updated May 21, 2021, 3:07 pm CDT

Women are leading the “blue wave” to November’s election, and Tuesday’s results from primaries and runoff elections across the South are just the beginning.

In Georgia, former state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams, one of the women who gave the Daily Dot’s women hope for 2018, made history by becoming the country’s first Black woman to ever be nominated for governor by a major political party. Abrams is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first Black leader of the House.

Abrams beat out former state Rep. Stacey Evans, ending a campaign-long narrative of the “battle of the ‘Staceys.'” The state election echoed the nationwide Democratic struggle to contest which strategies would work to guarantee a Democratic governor come November: Mobilizing untouched Black voters or appealing to white moderates who voted for President Donald Trump?

No Democrat has won a major Georgia statewide race since 2006, and the last Democrat governor was elected in 1998, according to CNN. However, polls from last week showed that Abrams was trailing one of her Republican opponents, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, by five points. Cagle will now face a runoff against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Trailing Abrams’ victory, Lucy McBath, a gun control activist, finished first in her Congressional primary for Georgia’s U.S. House District 6, securing her position in the runoffs.

McBath’s son Jordan Davis was a victim of gun violence, murdered at 17 at a Florida gas station by a 45-year-old white man in 2012. Since then, McBath cofounded the Mothers of the Movement, became a faith and outreach leader for Everytown for Gun Safety, and helped plan the March for Our Lives. McBath was amid a campaign for state legislature, but after the Parkland, Florida, shooting, she decided to run for Congress instead.

Texas’ former Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez also made history, becoming the state’s first openly gay and Latina nominee for governor. Valdez, who lost some Latino support from critics for her compliance with federal immigration agencies as sheriff, marginally beat out entrepreneur Andrew White, son of former Texas Gov. Mark White.

White, who has espoused anti-abortion beliefs and faced criticism of his border protection technology company, campaigned for reproductive justice and said he would divest from the company if he won the nomination. Although Valdez’s chances of being elected governor in the deeply red state of Texas may be slim, she would be the first openly gay governor if elected.

Texas women secured two nominations for the House. Former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones won her runoff in Texas’ District 23, which spans a majority of the Texas-Mexico border. If Ortiz Jones defeats incumbent Republican Rep. Will Hurd, she will be the first Filipina-American to serve in Congress.

In Houston’s District 7, liberal candidate Laura Moser lost to attorney and former Planned Parenthood board member Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, solidifying the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s attacks on Moser for jokingly writing years earlier that she’d rather have her teeth pulled than live in small-town Texas.

In Kentucky’s primary election, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath was elected the Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 6, beating Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who CNN called “one of the best-known figures in Kentucky politics.”

The next round of primary elections for Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota is on June 5.

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*First Published: May 23, 2018, 11:36 am CDT