Stratton said she’s looking forward to working with the other black lieutenant governors. Some conversations are already under way. Stratton pointed out that Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor of Virginia who was elected last year, came to campaign for her. Ford noted that he, Barnes, and the next attorney general of Illinois, Kwame Raoul, are all alumni of the historically black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. Tish James in New York and Keith Ellison in Minnesota were also elected attorney general on Tuesday.
The new black members of the House are from all over the country, from Delgado in New York, to Lucy McBath in Georgia, to Colin Allred in Texas. Notably, they represent districts that are not predominantly black.
Read: How straight-ticket voting by Democrats took out a leading Texas moderate
Democrats in Washington, D.C., tried to encourage this trend. Meredith Kelly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s communications director, told me the group spent $11.5 million supporting African American candidates over the course of the year. For the first time, almost all of them ran and won in districts that are not majority black.
Underwood said black candidates’ experience running in districts that haven’t had black representatives forced them to develop “our ability to reach out to different communities, and intentionally doing so.”
“We’re going to be able to work on all the black-caucus issues and priorities for African Americans to advance. We’re going to be able to work on the farm bill; we’re going to be able to work on gun reform,” Underwood said. “It’s an opportunity to work across the board, where we know we’re going to be able to have impact.”
As this new class of candidates begins preparing for higher office, it’s also trying to keep attention on Mississippi, where Mike Espy advanced to a runoff in the Senate race, which will be held at the end of the month.
Though few are high on Espy’s chances, they’re hoping the race might help mobilize and energize African Americans in the state and beyond.
“For someone like me, who spent the last 12 years in trying to get more candidates of color to rise, Tuesday was validation,” said Mike Blake, a New York assemblyman and the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Blake, who got his start working on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, is now running for New York City public advocate, a post left open by James’s election as attorney general.
“This was the epitome of going from a moment to a movement,” he said. “This was going from electing a candidate in Obama to a generation of candidates in one night.”
Barnes graduated from college in 2008 and got his start as a field organizer for Obama that year in Louisiana. Afterward, he worked as a community organizer for the same group in Chicago that had once hired the former president. Two weeks ago, he said, he was so overwhelmed seeing Obama campaign for him that his eyes are closed in the selfie they took together backstage at his rally.
He said 2018 will be the beginning of more races and, he predicted, more wins.
“There’s definitely further to go,” Barnes said, “and I think the door just got kicked in open on Tuesday.”
*An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the first African-American elected statewide in Michigan. It was Richard Austin, who first won as secretary of state in 1970.