Clin­ton eyes N.C. vic­tory, fights ap­a­thy

Her team aims to prevent ‘ane­mic’ black turnout

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Chris Mege­rian

DURHAM, N.C. — Hil­lary Clin­ton in­serted a sly re­mark near the end of her speech from a Bap­tist church pul­pit here on Sun­day, telling the crowd, “I’m not go­ing to tell you who to vote for.”

She didn’t need to. The black con­gre­gants who packed the pews laughed and ap­plauded, and when Clin­ton fin­ished speak­ing, they said good­bye with the same stand­ing ova­tion with which they had greeted her.

At an es­ti­mated one-quar­ter of this year’s elec­torate, African-Amer­i­cans are a larger per­cent­age in North Carolina than in any other tra­di­tional bat­tle­ground state.

The prob­lem for Clin­ton in North Carolina, where polls con­tinue to show a close race with Don­ald Trump, is not op­po­si­tion — by all ac­counts, she’ll win over­whelm­ingly among those blacks who do vote — it’s the risk of ap­a­thy.

“Ane­mic black turnout, even if it over­whelm­ing goes for Hil­lary Clin­ton, is a Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton shares smiles Sun­day with early vot­ers in North Carolina. prob­lem,” said An­dra Gille­spie, an Emory Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor.

To com­bat that pos­si­bil­ity, the cam­paign has show­ered the state with vis­its from Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and black celebri­ties, net­worked with church lead­ers and in­vested heav­ily in or­ga­niz­ing black stu­dents. Clin­ton is sched­uled to be back in North Carolina on Thurs­day, this time with first lady Michelle Obama.

Af­ter speak­ing at the Durham church on Sun­day, Clin­ton gave an in­ter­view to the state’s largest black news­pa­per, vis­ited a polling place with ac­tress UzoA­dubafrom “Or­ange is the New Black” and spoke at a rally at Saint Au­gus­tine’s, a his­tor­i­cally black univer­sity.

“We’ve al­ways un­der­stood that this is a cru­cial de­mo­graphic for us,” said Dan Kan­ni­nen, the cam­paign’s se­nior ad­viser in the state.

North Carolina is where Obama had his small­est mar­gin of vic­tory in 2008 and his small­est mar­gin of de­feat in 2012. Now res­i­dents are al- ready cast­ing bal­lots in this elec­tion. Early vot­ing at polling places be­gan on Thurs­day; mail bal­lots were avail­able as early as Sept. 9.

An anal­y­sis by J. Michael Bitzer, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at Catawba Col­lege, shows 26 per­cent of early vot­ers this year are black, down from 29 per­cent in 2012.

Clin­ton has spo­ken bluntly about race — re­fer­ring to “sys­temic racism” and “im­plicit bias.” And she’s em­braced the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, which sprung up in re­sponse to po­lice shoot­ings of un­armed black men.

In a re­cent in­ter­view with a Florida ra­dio sta­tion, she praised Black Lives Mat­ter for play­ing “a very con­struc­tive role.”

Crit­ics have most no­tably pointed to her use of the word “su­per- preda­tor” when speak­ing about the need for tougher crim­i­nal jus­tice leg­is­la­tion in the 1990s dur­ing her hus­band’s pres­i­dency.

Some young vot­ers fear Clin­ton won’t bring the sweep­ing change they feel is nec­es­sary to prevent the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem from un­fairly tar­get­ing black peo­ple. “They’re more dis­sat­is­fied, and more im­pa­tient. They want to go for the jugu­lar of prob­lems,” Gille­spie said. “They view Hil­lary Clin­ton as a throw­back to the past.”

Clin­ton’s most high-pro­file cam­paign part­ners are from an older gen­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing moth­ers whose chil­dren died af­ter en­coun­ters with law en­force­ment or dur­ing high-pro­file cases of gun vi­o­lence. Five of them joined her at the church on Sun­day.

Geneva Reed-Veal, whose daugh­ter, San­dra Bland, died in a Texas jail af­ter she was ar­rested dur­ing a traf­fic stop, said there was no ex­cuse for not vot­ing.

“You have no busi­ness stay­ing home in this elec­tion,” she said to ap­plause.

The is­sue of po­lice shoot­ings re­ceived added ur­gency in North Carolina last month when Keith La­mont Scott was shot and killed in Char­lotte. Po­lice have said Scott had a weapon; his fam­ily said he was read­ing a book and wait­ing for his son.

Clin­ton had planned to travel to the city shortly af­ter Scott’s death, but de­layed her trip at the mayor’s re­quest. When she ar­rived a week later, she met at a soul food restau­rant with young black men, some of them who were in­volved in the protests.

“You can tell some politi­cians are un­com­fort­able about African-Amer­i­cans,” said Shaun Cor­bett, a bar­ber­shop owner who was at the meet­ing. “Hil­lary sat right down and started talk­ing about the ba­nana pud­ding.”

Cor­bett said Clin­ton didn’t mince words about the prob­lems fac­ing the black com­mu­nity.

“There’s not many white politi­cians who can say race is a prob­lem,” he said. “It’s taboo.”

JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN/GETTY

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