The midterms are coming (Game of Thrones voice) and The Root wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to follow the the elections that matter. Do they all matter? Of course they don’t. Look, we know that isn’t the politically correct answer, but when has The Root ever worried about being politically correct? At this point it’s a numbers game. We aren’t going to waste time pointing out that Democrats need flip 24 Republican seats in order to reclaim the House, as you should know that by now. What we’ve done is narrow down all of the these races down to all of the important races that we (the collective and inclusive we that sits at the cool table in the cafeteria) need to be concerned about.
Below are 10 races to watch during the 2018 midterms.
Mike Espy vs Errebody for Mississippi Senate
Why this race matters: If you ever wanted to go back in time then just travel to Mississippi. There are still places in Mississippi where black people can’t roller skate on Sundays. Sharecropping is still a thing in Mississippi. Mississippians still shop at the Piggly Wiggly. I still don’t believe it’s legal for black people in Mississippi to read in public spaces. Also Mississippi being the bastion of America’s regrets can never just be easy.
Here’s how WREG breaks it all down:
Four candidates are competing to fill the remaining two years of the term of Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired earlier this year. Although the race is nonpartisan and party labels won’t appear on the ballot, it features two Republicans and two Democrats, and could result in a Nov. 27 runoff.
Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith, then the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, to fill the vacancy, and the GOP’s Hyde-Smith has stuck close to President Donald Trump, winning his endorsement. Also running is Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who nearly knocked off Cochran in a 2014 primary, only to see Cochran escape defeat in a runoff partly by appealing to Democrats.
On the Democratic side, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy is trying to pull off an upset that could have national implications in a closely divided Senate. Another Democrat and former military intelligence officer, Tobey Bernard Bartee, is also running.
Here’s what you need to know: Mike Espy isn’t new to this. He was the first African American from Mississippi to serve in Congress since Reconstruction back in 1986 and “served in the U.S. House from 1987 to 1993, handily winning re-election three times by wide margins.” The only opponent Espy needs to be worried about is the incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was last seen sitting on the congressional floor behind Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) when she made her now infamous speech about her vote of on Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Democrat Letitia James vs. Republican Keith H. Wofford for New York State’s Attorney
Why this race matters: For staters, a black woman is running against a black man to become the next New York states attorney and while their views on how to do said job couldn’t be more different, shout out black folks being in a position of power to battle one another for the top slot.
Secondly, “The New York attorney general’s office currently has dozens of actions against Mr. Trump and his administration, including a lawsuit against the president’s charitable foundation and another challenging efforts to ask a citizenship question on the census,” The New York Times reports.
Both candidates are attorneys, Wofford has worked with big corporations and James has been a New York City public advocate. James will continue to push back against Trump while Wofford claims that just because he’s a Republican it doesn’t mean he’s all Trump all the time.
Here’s what you need to know: James refused to look at Wofford during the debate but did drop this stinger while looking straight ahead:
“Sir, I have been saving lives all throughout my career. You have been saving corporations.”
Mandela Barnes (D) vs. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) for Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
Why this race matters: Lieutenant governors aren’t elected in every state. In fact, 25 states elect a lieutenant governor on a ticket with the governor, while 18 states elect a lieutenant governor separately. Wisconsin elects their governor and lieutenant governor on separate ballots.
Mandela Barnes has already overcome being dead, and being white to win the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor of Wisconsin. I’m not joking. A 62-year-old man died in a car crash and a news station used a photo of Barnes and noted that he died on the scene.
“Then, on election night, an NBC affiliate in Green Bay reporting on early returns displayed his share of the vote, 70 percent at the time, with a photo of a white state representative, Dana Wachs, who had dropped out of the race for governor in June,” The Washington Post reports.
Here’s what you need to know: Without any evidence and refusing to reveal her “sources” Kleefisch randomly claimed that Barnes kneeled during the national anthem during a Wisconsin State Fair at a ceremony.
“The whole damn program would have stopped” if he’d taken a knee at the event, Barnes told the Journal-Sentinel.
“I was around so many people. I was right next to the cameras,” Barnes said. “This is too stupid to respond to.”
Garlin Gilchrist II for Lieutenant Governor Michigan
Why this race matters: Unlike Wisconsin, the governor and the lieutenant governor run as a ticket and are elected in tandem. The reason this race is important is because if the ticket of Gretchen Whitmer/Garlin Gilchrist II are elected then Gilchrist immediately becomes a name to watch. He’s young, at just 35 years old, Detroit native, who grew up speaking in his church. He spent years in the tech space having fixed his first computer at 16. He claims his background in tech taught him how to solve problems. Once moving from tech to politics, He ran Barack Obama’s social media campaign in 2008.
Here’s what you need to know: At 35, Gilchrist is the youngest of the gubernatorial ticket and he’s also the only black candidate.
Deidre DeJear vs. Republican incumbent Paul Pate for Iowa Secretary of State
Why this race matters: From 2000 until now have been the years of the black woman. they were instrumental in giving America arguably the best president to ever sit in the White House and literally stopped a pedophile from becoming an Alabama senator.
Black woman have not only been America’s moral compass but ... isn’t that enough? Hell being the moral compass of America is a full time job.
Here’s what you need to know: Deidre DeJear’s kind of a big deal. When California senator Kamala Harris (only a hot name on the shortlist of 2020 presidential nominees) campaigns for you, and former president Barack Obama endorses you, then you’re kind of a big deal. Not to mention in the era of rapid voter suppression, secretary of states become the guardians of ensuring that votes are counted and not placed into a barrel and burned like the Georgia secretary of state (see below).
“You guys have a rock star in her,”Harris said during her stump speech and considering Harris is a rock star herself, that’s kind of a big deal.
Ben Jealous vs. Larry Hogan for Maryland Governor
Why this race matters: Democrat Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP is fighting an uphill battle. Larry Hogan has thawed to blacks who were initially cool on the Republican governor. Hogan’s support among blacks has more than doubled since his first campaign for governor in 2014, from 14 percent to 33 percent, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll earlier this month.
But, this doesn’t mean that Jealous is out of it. He’s pushing a hardline education platform, which would be funded by legalizing recreational use of marijuana by adults.
Here’s what you need to know: Early poll numbers have Hogan with a double digit lead over Jealous. The real concern here is that Jealous may not have done enough to bring voters to the polls during a non-presidential election.
Jahana Hayes (D) vs. Manny Santos (R) for Connecticut 5th District
Why this race matters: Jahana Hayes is a former national teacher of the year, with little political experience, which might’ve made her a bit of a long shot, except that didn’t stop her from winning the Democratic nomination from longtime politician Mary Glassman.
Also she’s running against Manny Santos, who’s a big-time Trump supporter. Santos believes in “building a wall along the US-Mexico border, repealing Obamacare, and protecting gun rights,” Vox reports.
Should Hayes wins the seat left by current Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who is retiring, she would be the first black woman to represent Connecticut in the House of Representatives.
Here’s what you need to know: Hayes would not only become the black woman to represent Connecticut in the House of Representatives, but she would be coming out of the 5th District which is predominately white but also solidly Democratic.
Stacey Abrams vs. Brian Kemp for Georgia Governor
Why this race matters: If everything was fair and equal, this wouldn’t even be a race. Stacey Abrams, would be posed to take her seat as the first African American female governor in the history of America. But everything isn’t fair and equal, Brian Kemp is the secretary of state, which means he’s looking over the votes and well we have footage of Brian Kemp swimming in all the votes he’s thrown out.
Abrams is so awesome that Oprah called her to ask how she could help. Kemp is so deplorable that Mike Pence called him to ask how he could help. This is where we are, America.
Here’s what you need to know: Because the race is close and Kemp is running the show—he’s now opening an investigation into the state Democratic Party for “failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system,” which Dems have called bullshit—this race will most likely not be decided on Nov. 6 and it may not be decided by the end of November.
Andrew Gillum vs. Ron DeSantis for Florida Governor
Why this race matters: Because Florida just can’t stop being Florida, the Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has called this race “so cotton-pickin’ important.”
If this race were decided only on debates then Gillum would’ve been the runaway winner because he issued a double barrel donkey-fisted smackdown on DeSantis. But Florida is so Florida and because of it, self-described conservative warrior who stays on Fox News and loves him some Trump so the race is close; Florida close. If Gillum pulls this out he will become Florida’s first black governor and that would really piss off President Trump.
Here’s what you need to know: Pundits are calling the race a toss up with RealClearPolitics polls showing Gillum up by 2.7 percentage points.
Lucy McBath (D) vs Incumbent Karen Handel (R) for Georgia’s 6th District
Why this race matters: Lucy McBath had plans; plans that didn’t involve losing her son, Jordan Davis, to gun violence. But when tragedy struck in November 2012 all those plans changed. McBath is now running for Congress as a gun control advocate and some six years after losing her son, McBath is hoping to make history in the same month her son died.
Here’s what you need to know:
Georgia’s 6th District is traditionally deep red. In fact, nothing about McBath’s story should be working there: she’s anti-gun, against the NRA, and let’s not forget this little fact: she’s a black woman. But, the long shot candidate has closed the gap. And, going into the election, many are calling this race a toss up.
Plus, days before the election, McBath released this ad which is just heartbreaking.