Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat serving her 12th term, is gearing up to be the state’s first Black woman to enter this cycle’s race for U.S. Senate.
A person familiar with Lee’s plans told the Washington Post that the timing of the announcement is being organized around Black History Month.
If elected, Lee, 76, would be the only Black woman in the Senate, and only the third in its history. Vice President Kamala Harris (D-California) and former senator Carol Moseley Braun (D-Illinois) are the only other two Black women to have served in the role, according to the report.
Lee highlighted the lack of Black female representation throughout the U.S. Senate’s history in a statement to the outlet.
“Currently, there are no Black Women in the U.S. Senate, and there have only been two in our almost 250-year history. Our voices are sorely missed in the Senate,” Lee said.
“My lived experience as a Black woman making true progressive change for Californians will give a voice in the U.S. to those who are currently voiceless,” she added.
According to the Post, Lee announced the plans to her colleagues on the Congressional Black Caucus in January.
The lineup of challengers Lee will face upon entering the race include Democratic Reps. Katie Porter, 49 and Adam B. Schiff, 62.
Lee’s supporters say they expect her campaign to be aided by her experience and perspective as a Black woman who has encountered and overcome discrimination.
According to the report, while in high school, Lee integrated the student cheerleading team. She additionally had an abortion prior to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that permitted the right to choose whether or not to undergo the procedure.
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Lee was the lone U.S. congressperson to vote against the authorization that allowed then-President George Bush to invade Afghanistan with military force, for which she faced intense backlash.
Lee’s supporters include Tracy Falcon King, director of communications for The Collective PAC, an advocacy organization which works to increase the rate at which Black candidates enter and win political elections.
“Black women have been the backbone of the Democratic Party,” King told the outlet. “We need to have a seat at the table.”
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