‘It’s a sad day’: As Booker exits Democratic primary, a once-historic field gets less diverse

WASHINGTON – The 2020 Democratic presidential field has been heralded as the most diverse in history.

It at times has included a Latino man, an Asian American man, a Samoan American woman, three black men and one black woman. In addition to its racial and ethnic diversity, the field also included a gay man and a record number of women.

But less than three weeks before the first votes are cast in Iowa — and after Sen. Cory Booker dropped out Monday — only three non-white Democratic presidential candidates remain: former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

“The Democratic Party tried to evolve … this year. It still has some work to do,’’ said Keneshia Grant, a political scientist at Howard University and author of an upcoming book, “The Great Migration and the Democratic Party.”

“It has to figure out how it can be a party that makes space for people who look like their most important constituency to hold the big offices or even having a chance to hold the big offices,” she said. “It’s a sad day, a day that we saw coming, but sad no less that we didn’t end up with a candidate of color in the party that is home to people of color.”

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Black, Latino and Asian American voters are key to Democratic electoral victories and overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

In 2018, 90% of black voters said they voted for Democratic candidate in the race of the House of Representatives, according to Pew Research Center. Among Asian voters, 77% said they voted for the Democrat, while 69% of Hispanic voters said they went for the Democratic candidate. 

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Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, (left) is greeted by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang during the 2019 Accessibility, Inclusion, and Outreach Conference, hosted by Accessibility for All and the Linn County Medical Society, Saturday, Nov., 2, 2019, at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo: Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Fundraising woes plague candidates of color

Booker, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Sen. Kamala Harris all cited fundraising issues when they ended their campaigns. 

“Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage,” Booker wrote in an email to supporters Monday.

Harris in an email to supporters when she dropped out last month said her “campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.” 

“I’m not a billionaire,” Harris said in the email. “I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.”

Grant said another challenge for the party is holding the early primaries in states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Castro in November made the lack of diversity of the two early voting states a key part of his pitch to voters, saying they’re “not reflective of the diversity of our country, and certainly not reflective of the diversity of the Democratic Party.”

MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid hinted at some of those same sentiments Monday.

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