Citizens of Rio de Janeiro state had a shock on the night of October 2, or at least those that believed the opinion polls. The margin of error was much greater than the nine percentage points predicted by some research institutes. Claudio Castro (Liberal Party – PL) was reelected Rio state governor with 58.67% of the vote, while his adversary Marcelo Freixo (Brazilian Socialist Party – PSB) received 27.38%. Meanwhile, Rodrigo Neves (Democratic Labor Party – PDT) received 8% of valid votes. Despite this result, which maintains an extreme-right politician in the post of governor, the number of progressive candidates elected to the Rio de Janeiro State Legislative Assembly (ALERJ) has increased.
Political representatives who are black and born and raised in favelas were reelected in these elections, among them Renata Souza (Socialism and Liberty Party – PSOL)—the woman who received the most votes in Rio de Janeiro and the third most voted state parliamentarian overall. Reelected as state deputy, Souza received 174,132 votes, almost triple the 63,937 votes she received in the previous 2018 election.
Born and raised in Complexo da Maré, Souza is a journalist with a PhD in Communication and Culture from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). She has become one of the main political figures advocating for human rights and fighting against the extermination of the black population, police violence in the favelas, and the militias.
“The politics we have built in defense of life and rights—of black, poor people in the favelas, LGBTIA+ population, youth, those practicing Afro-Brazilian religions, for the rural parts of Rio state, and women—this is what made me the woman with the most votes in ALERJ. Being in opposition is never easy, but this is why I was elected!” affirmed Souza in an interview with newspaper O Dia.
Before becoming a parliamentarian, Renata Souza (PSOL-RJ) was assistant to human rights defender and City Councillor Marielle Franco (PSOL-RJ), who was the victim of a political assassination in 2018 that led her to become a global social justice icon. Souza is thus considered one of Marielle’s “seeds.” She also worked with Marcelo Freixo in all of his mandates as state deputy.
Dani Monteiro (PSOL-RJ) from the São Carlos favela was also reelected with over 50,000 votes. A black woman, she studied at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) through the affirmative action program. Monteiro presides over the ALERJ Human Rights Commission and also worked as an assistant in Marielle Franco’s office.
Mônica Francisco (PSOL-RJ) was also an assistant to Marielle Franco and was elected following the councilwoman’s assassination. She was not reelected this time, which has reduced representation of black women and feminists on the PSOL bench in ALERJ. With 23,831 votes, she didn’t reach the minimum electoral coefficient but will continue with her mandate until the new legislature is installed. Born and raised in Borel and a community leader in the favela, Francisco said she will continue “in the struggle to occupy everything with trajectories, histories and ancestries because we black women are the foundation of this country.”
Meanwhile, the first trans state deputy was elected on October 2. Dani Balbi (Communist Party of Brazil – PCdoB) is the first trans professor at UFRJ, has a doctorate in literature and was elected state deputy with over 65,000 votes. Posting on Instagram, she said:
“I still don’t have the words to express how happy I am that we reached this milestone in the history of our state. I may be the first but from now on the path is set so that dozens of us trans women can occupy the same space going forward. We will paint Alerj with people!”
The election of councillors Chico Alencar (PSOL-RJ) and Tarcísio Motta (PSOL-RJ) as federal deputies has reconfigured the party’s bench in Rio’s City Council due to their replacements. In 2023, alternates Luciana Boiteux, professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at UFRJ, and Mônica Cunha, founder of Movimento Moleque, will take up the posts as councillors. The inauguration of Mônica Cunha as a councilwoman is important for the significance of her representation: Cunha is a human rights defender who lost her son to police violence and is a member of the Network of Mothers and Victims of Police or State Violence.
Another highlight is the election of Verônica Lima, a councilwoman from Rio’s sister city of Niterói and the first black woman to take up the post in the city’s history. With Lima, women will occupy 15 spots in ALERJ, three more seats than in the previous election.