Democrat Terry McAuliffe has made wooing Black voters a top priority in the homestretch to Tuesday’s election in Virginia’s neck-and-neck race for governor.
It’s no wonder since there are signs that he is struggling with that vital Democratic voting bloc. Polls show a deficit in Mr. McAuliffe’s support among Black Virginians, some of whom told The Washington Times that they harbor doubts about his commitment to them.
In the final days of the campaign, Mr. McAuliffe is making stops across the state alongside some of Congress’ prominent Black members: House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Barbara Lee of California and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia.
The McAuliffe campaign also brought in Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, who also is Black, to lead door-knocking efforts on Saturday in Arlington.
“I think the former governor has a track record of not only being loyal to Black voters, but a track record of delivering for them,” said Antjuan Seawright, an adviser to Mr. Clyburn who will join Mr. McAuliffe at the campaign stops. “I also think [there’s] a coordinated campaign effort centered around making certain that Black voters have a reason to turn out, a reason to be engaged, and a reason to be ginned up.”
Mr. McAuliffe will appear in Newport News, Fredericksburg, Hampton, and Portsmouth, all areas outside of his northern Virginia base.
Mr. McAuliffe served as governor from 2014 to 2018 in Virginia, where governors are barred from serving consecutive terms.
He needs strong Black voter turnout Tuesday to put him ahead of Republican Glenn Youngkin, but recent polls indicate there’s been a dip in Black Virginians’ support for Mr. McAuliffe since his last term.
In 2013, Mr. McAuliffe carried 90% of the Black vote against Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
An Emerson College/Nexstar poll released this week had Mr. McAuliffe capturing 71% of Black voters, compared to 24% for Mr. Youngkin.
The same poll had Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Youngkin tied at 48% overall in the race.
Some Black voters said they are wary about Mr. McAuliffe’s dedication to the Black community.
Jesse Maggitt, of Dumfries, who attended a recent rally with Mr. McAuliffe and Vice President Kamala Harris, said he still needed to be convinced the former governor is serious about helping Black people in Virginia.
“I want to make sure he is serious about bringing unity to our government and community, and also for people who look like me,” Mr. Maggitt said. “Basically, we want to make sure we have our voices and concerns heard because there’s a lot to do here in Virginia. I want to make sure he’s the right person for the job.”
Doug Wilder, the first Black governor of Virginia, has been vocalizing his opposition to Mr. McAuliffe, whose candidacy he says blocked people of color from seeking the seat.
“All the people he ran against for governor for the most part in the Democratic Party were Black. Is he saying that he’s come back to rescue Black people? Or to speak for Black people? I think you know the answer to that is no,” Mr. Wilder told 7News.
Despite skepticism among some Black voters for Mr. McAuliffe, others touted his record on expanding voting rights and his visceral response to the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
While he was governor, Mr. McAuliffe worked to restore the right to vote for some 200,000 felons, many of whom were people of color.
Richmond resident Eva Amtey, 68, who worked for the state of Virginia during Mr. McAuliffe’s tenure, said she thinks the candidate is being truthful about his intent to lift up Black people.
“I worked for the state of Virginia while he was governor, and I have no complaints or arguments. I like his style,” Mrs. Amtey said. “I think McAuliffe is open and honest about what he is about and to help those of us who need help. I trust him.”
Mr. McAuliffe has campaigned with a slew of notable Black Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Ms. Harris.
Both Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Youngkin have increased their presence and message among Black voters.
Mr. McAuliffe is pitching an increased minimum wage and funding into Black-owned businesses, as well as promoting ownership in the state’s new cannabis industry, according to his website.
The former governor is also seeking to enhance the relationship between law enforcement agencies and Black communities, and diversify the state’s health care industries.
Mr. Youngkin launched “Black Virginians for Glenn” in April that has campaign leaders meeting with members of the Black community and holding events to spread the Republican’s message.
“As governor, Glenn Youngkin will make the Commonwealth the top place for all business owners, including Black business owners, workers, and families, to thrive,” Diante Johnson, president of the Black Conservative Federation, said in a statement.
“Glenn understands Black Virginians want more opportunities, better education, more business and homeownership, and easier access to job training and occupational licensing,” he said.
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