How Three Democratic Women in Swing States Aim to Win This Week


Early voters line up to cast their ballots at the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, North Carolina. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

North Carolina House candidate Aimy Steele is back on the doors.

”Knocking doors is my superpower!” the Democrat from Caberras County, just outside of Charlotte, told me mid-summer. At the time, though, COVID was keeping the longtime educator on the phone, not the doors. Now, as the state’s coordinated campaign, which backs candidates from Vice President Joe Biden to down-ballot Democrats, moved cautiously back to the streets in recent weeks, her team has begun a new crusade of socially distant door knocking. And she is thrilled.

“There’s pure excitement to see us,” Steele said. “One woman streamed me on Facebook Live when I came to her door!” The Democrat who lost by only 2,000 votes last time had knocked on 300 doors as of last Wednesday, and was still counting.

Last summer I focused on three women of color who ran for state legislative races in North Carolina, Texas, and Florida in 2018. All three lost, but by unexpectedly narrow margins, and all are running again. They were part of a wave of candidates, disproportionately women, who were trying to reverse a trend that began when Barack Obama was elected in 2008 — and Republicans began their comeback by targeting state legislative races. During Obama’s two terms, the GOP won 942 seats. Thanks to new attention, grassroots enthusiasm, some smart funders, and many excellent women candidates and candidates of color, Democrats have clawed almost halfway back. Meanwhile, North Carolina, Texas and Florida have, rather surprisingly, become hotly contested at the presidential level, and are also receiving national attention to these state legislative fights. 

A few days before the election, all three women, like Steele, are running effectively tied with their GOP opponents. They’re trailing them in fundraising, but all are competitive, when two years ago, they were most definitely not. This is getting interesting.

Politico has called North Carolina “the epicenter of the epicenter” of this terrifying and awesome 2020 election. All the demographic changes dooming Republicans and reviving Democrats are at play here, in a state Barack Obama narrowly won in 2008 but Democrats lost the next two presidential cycles. The number of first-time voters and voters of color is on the rise, according to early vote estimates. But Republicans are voting early, too. The Senate race between Thom Tillis, a Tea Party zealot elected in 2014, and Democrat Cal Cunningham is a virtual tie, with Cunningham a nose ahead in most polls. Former Vice President Joe Biden has a narrow lead.

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