Race for the House: A Preliminary Analysis of Rural Candidates of Color running in Battleground U.S. House Districts

Related Articles

The vast majority of mainstream political journalists and pundits, with a few exceptions, tend to stereotype all rural voters as white Republicans from farm states who congregate in diners to express their conservative political views. While this categorization has some elements of truth to it in certain places, rural voters are much more diverse racially, ethnically, economically, and politically in reality.

These stereotypes drive political reporting and often political donations, reinforcing a “red states = rural/blue states = urban” narrative. This narrative overlooks the many places in rural America where Democrats tend to do quite well, particularly in communities where Black, Hispanic, Latino, Indigenous, and other rural voters of color make up from 25%-to-large-majorities of the electorate. These places include:

  • The Black Belt of the Southeast
  • Tribal communities in the West and Great Lakes states
  • The Mississippi River Delta
  • The Rio Grande Valley
  • The Desert Southwest
  • Many counties with a large number of agriculture and meatpacking workers

As the November midterm election moves into peak primary season, most analysts are predicting significant losses for House Democrats. They anticipate losses based on the following factors: President Biden’s approval ratings, rising prices, the increasing cost of living, inflation, redistricting, and gerrymandering. Thus far, most national political coverage has focused on urban and suburban races.

This brief analysis highlights House races where the political media and campaign establishment have overlooked rural candidates of color.


1.) Georgia 2nd—Longtime incumbent Representative Sanford Bishop faces a tough midterm election, with state-level redistricting moving the GA-2nd from safely Democratic to a near historical draw. Bishop, an African-American, is the current Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Georgia will be the focus of several high-profile races in November, including highly competitive and expensive U.S. Senate and Governor races, which could also impact voter turnout, advertising, and media coverage during this critical campaign.

2.) North Carolina 1st—This seat held by retiring multi-term incumbent Representative G.K. Butterfield leans slightly Democratic. Progressives broadly support former State Senator Erica Smith in the tightly contested primary. Smith, an African-American leader, grew up on her family’s farm and is running a multi-pronged rural-focused campaign. She is committed to “fighting for and delivering a Rural New Deal that will take on corporate monopolies, making the minimum wage a living wage, ensuring universal healthcare, guaranteeing broadband as a utility, and combating the climate crisis by creating millions of new jobs building the energy system of the future.”

3.) Kansas 3rd—While she represents the Kansas region of urban Kansas City, Representative Sharice Davids has spent most of her career working on rural issues. An enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Davids made history, along with Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01) in 2018, as the first Native woman elected to Congress. Kansas Republicans have targeted Davids through gerrymandering and redistricting as the state’s sole Democratic House or Senate member.


1.) New Mexico 2nd—This seat leans slightly Democratic by election analysts but is currently held by first-term Republican Representative Yvette Harrell. Harrell beat now-USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small in a close race in 2020. Democratic primary frontrunner Gabe Vasquez is running on a pro-rural platform of public health care, public lands and conservation, climate action, and increasing wages and benefits for the working class.


1.) Colorado 3rdSol Sandoval, a Latina social worker, is running a rural-focused campaign to unseat incumbent first-term Republican Lauren Boebert. Sandoval’s policy platform centers on working people who “get squeezed more and more – by rising prices, fewer jobs, crumbling schools, lack of healthcare access, drought and wildfire.” She is in a close race with another Democratic candidate, former Aspen city council member Adam Frisch, in the June 28th primary.

2.) Michigan 4thJoseph Alfonso is a son of immigrants running for the Democrats in this Southwest Michigan district. He is a military veteran and union plumber, emphasizing a rural platform on water quality, public sector services, antitrust and agricultural reforms, Rural Workforce Development & Careers, and reforming immigration laws.

3.) California 3rd—Physician and military veteran Kermit Jones is running for this open seat along California’s East-Central Nevada border. Jones, an African-American, who grew up on his family’s farm, emphasizes rural health care issues in his campaign, support for rural infrastructure projects, and climate action (especially addressing wildfire in the forest-heavy local region).

4.)Texas 23rdJohn Lira, a public servant, and military veteran, is running to replace Republican incumbent Tony Gonzales in this vast West Texas rural district. Though Lira is from an urban core, he emphasizes his working-class roots and support for public sector health care and community service.

Bryce Oates wrote this analysis. Additionally, Jake Davis of Local Root Strategies, Aftyn Behn of and Jon Mark Hogg of 134 PAC contributed feedback and ideas to this analysis.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Popular Articles