Democratic Presidential Candidates Court Women Of Color At Houston Forum

Apr 24, 2019

Eight Democratic presidential candidates participated in the She the People presidential forum at Texas Southern University in Houston on Wednesday. The event was billed as the "first-ever presidential forum focused on women of color" – a key demographic within the Democratic Party.

Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren individually took questions from moderators and an audience of 1,700 people on a range of topics, including “social, racial, economic and gender justice.”

Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People and a moderator at the event, said the forum was a test of which candidates stand "for and with" women of color.

“The candidate that does that best and most consistently will win the nomination and the White House in 2020," she said.

When asked why women of color should vote for them, here's what the candidates had to say:

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

“As a man who was raised by a strong black woman, who understood and taught me from my very earliest of ages the debt that I owe – we in America – owe a debt to the championship and the leadership and the activism of women of color.”

Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

“I am only here because of two very strong women of color – my grandmother, Victoria, who came from Mexico when she was 7 … My mom was able to become the first one to graduate from high school and then go on to college and she raised my brother and I as a single parent. And so I grew up seeing both the struggles and the promise of two strong women of color.”

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

“Coming from Hawaii, [I] have a unique experience that I bring to the forefront and that I feel is so strongly needed in this country now.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

"Because of my track record my entire life of focusing on women of color."  

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

“What I can tell you is that my entire life I have fought for justice.”

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

“Showing up, listening, incorporating what I hear – everyone’s experiences – into this campaign, into our service, is how I hope to earn the support and the vote of the people of this country.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

"Look at my record and look at what I have campaigned on.”

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Warren was not directly asked why women of color should vote for her. But when asked what she would say to people who are interested in her, but afraid to vote for a woman, she replied:

"Are we going to show up for people that we didn’t actually believe in but because we were too afraid to do anything else? That’s not who we are. That is not how we are going to do this.”

'The Shopping Phase'

Before the event, Eesha Pandit of Houston said she really valued the "political power of women of color."

Pandit said she was excited the forum wsa aimed at this demographic, which she described as the most “progressive” voting bloc. She said she thinks candidates often don’t pay close attention to their needs.

She said she hoped the event would help her decide whom to support.

“I’m definitely in the shopping phase,” she said. “I really want to hear what they have to say.”

“I don’t think a candidate can win the election in 2020 without the vote of immigrant women, Latina women and women of color in general,” another attendee, Sulma Arias of Virginia, said. “I think our voting bloc and our voices can no longer be ignored.”

Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People, kicks off the forum to discuss issues aimed at women of color.
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Allison told NPR's Morning Edition earlier in the day that there's no path to victory for any of the candidates without the support of women of color.

"This is the first time women of color have been organized as a political force," she said, adding that the demographic makes up 1 in 5 primary voters, and 1 in 4 voters in swing states.

This post has been updated.