After serving her community as a Houston City Council member for four years, Amanda Edwards is now determined to make history.
The 37-year-old was elected in 2015 as one of Houston’s at-large council members and subsequently represented 2.3 million Texans and helped lead the city’s Hurricane Harvey recovery effort in 2017. However, rather than running for reelection, Edwards was tapped by the state’s Democratic Party to run for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Sen. John Cornyn. As a result, she is currently campaigning against 11 other Democratic challengers in a primary that will be held March 3. Should she win the crowded primary race, she’ll then have to face off with Cornryn, a Trump loyalist who’s already raised $12 million towards his reelection campaign. In comparison, Edwards says her campaign has yet to raise a $1 million. Nevertheless, if she beats the odds and wins both elections, Edwards would become Lone Star state’s first black U.S. senator and just the third black woman to ever hold a U.S. Senate seat.
“Some people initially find it challenging to believe that a woman of color can be the next U.S. Senator from Texas because they make certain assumptions about the demographics of Texas and about me that are not based in reality,” she told BLACK ENTERPRISE. However, she remains hopeful due to the rapid pace at which Texas politics are changing. The deep red state saw a huge shift in 2018 when former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke almost beat Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz during the U.S. midterm elections, reports Quartz. Despite his defeat, O’Rourke managed to gain an impressive amount of support from Republican voters. He also galvanized scores of left-leaning young people and minorities to register to vote. Had more actually come out to vote, he would have won. According to Edwards, her pathway to victory relies on gaining support from moderates that O’Rourke won over in addition to getting more registered young people of color to actually show up how to the polls.
“What if you could have someone who was able to galvanize both those persuadable voters but also the same people of color, people under the age of 35?” she says. According to her, many newly registered voters didn’t turn out back in 2018 due to their distrust in government. “We know a number of those folks believe that democracy doesn’t work for them,” she said. As a result, her focus is to restore their faith in politics and help more people understand that “it can work and it can be different this time if you have someone like me, the messenger who has worked tirelessly in these communities.”
Her faith in her campaign is also steeped in the belief that Texas will eventually become a blue state in light of its urban expansion and growing LatinX community. “Texas is one of the states that have been identified as those that could be flipped,” she said. “If we shift the balance of power — using Texas as what was once known to be the stronghold of the Republican Party or conservative voting — to actually be where that happens, that will be a tremendous paradigm shift.”
Since launching her campaign last year, Edwards has focused on expanding access to healthcare and economic opportunity. “When I was 10 years old, my father was diagnosed with cancer and I learned what our U.S. healthcare system was by asking my father, ‘when his experimental treatments were going to be covered by the insurance company?’ So, in my dad’s case, because he had great insurance…he was able to stay around longer. He didn’t pass away until I was 17,” she said. “I remember asking my dad, ‘what happens if they say no to the coverage? What would happen next?’ And my dad explain[ed], ‘oh, we have to figure something else out.’ And that’s what if somebody can figure something else out? The truth is, for so many families, that is a life or death outcome. And we’ve got to have an urgency behind dealing with issues of healthcare access and also economic opportunity.”
When it comes to economic power, Edwards is fighting so that no one gets left behind in the technical revolution. “In light of the fact that the nature of the economy is evolving, automation is happening, all of the things that are happening, we’ve got to still create a space for people to exist in these economies, both today and tomorrow. And then we have to meet them where they are, not expecting everyone to become a computer coder because they’re not.”
The Texas native says empowering black businesses and stimulating economic growth in communities of color would also be part of her agenda. “Minority-owned businesses are three times less likely to gain access to traditional forms of capital for their businesses than are their non-minority counterparts. I seek to place monetary incentives in place that facilitate the increased bank and CDFI lending to women and minority-owned businesses so that they may see an increase in accessing economic opportunity. I will also support more resources for them via the [Small Business Administration].”
The Harvard law school graduate says she’s proud to have earned support from a Houston hometown favorite Tina Knowles-Lawson, the mother of Beyonce Knowles-Carter. “I was so grateful for Tina Knowles-Lawson and her support. She got behind me. She really connected with my story. And she believes and she has seen it. I mean, we’ve seen it through the legacy her children in that anything is possible,” she wrote on Instagram.
Nonetheless, even with the support of Beyonce, herself, O’Rourke still fell short in the midterm elections. In fact, Democrats haven’t won a statewide office since 1994. Edwards, however, is unabashed about her uphill battle to make history. “This race will be the embodiment of David and Goliath,” she said. Luckily, everyone loves an underdog.
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