Black Politicians' Rise Signals Changing Electorate

More white voters may be growing comfortable with black officials
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Oct 14, 2008 10:18 AM CDT
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008.    (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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(Newser) – A change in the electorate may be under way as a growing number of blacks are winning local elections nationwide—more and more often across color lines, the New York Times reports. Some 16% of black legislators represented mainly white districts in 2001; by 2007, that figure had nearly doubled. While most of the country's 622 black state legislators represent largely black communities, the shift may suggest white voters are growing more comfortable with black leaders, the Times notes.

“There’s a fair amount of experience out there among white voters now, and that has lessened the fears about black candidates,” says the author of a book on the subject. Notable examples include the mayors of predominantly white Asheville, NC, and Columbus, Ohio, as well as the governor of 79% white Massachusetts. Will support for local black officials help Barack Obama? Many black legislators say no, but some analysts disagree.