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Eighteen months after Barack Obama‘s presidential win seemed to usher in a new era in racial politics, a different reality has emerged: Black candidates in races around the country are struggling so much that the number of African Americans in major statewide offices is likely to drop from the already paltry three. And the possibility exists that there will be no black governors or senators by next year.

The drubbing Tuesday of Rep. Artur Davis (D), who was running to be the first black governor of Alabama, was the latest in a series of defeats of black politicians in primaries this year for statewide office. And some of the blacks who already hold such posts aren’t staying in them. Of the nation’s two black governors, New York’s David Paterson, plagued by ethics scandals, opted not to run this fall — the same decision made by the only black senator, Roland Burris (D-Ill.).

Aspiring black politicians, such as Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), who is running for the Senate, are underdogs in general election races. The only African American favored to win a gubernatorial or U.S. Senate seat is Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who is running for a second term. And while a number of black Republicans are running, many of them are losing in primaries as well, and the number of black members of the GOP in Congress could be zero.

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