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Political News in Virginia

Black Voter Turnout Deemed Critical

Democratic Party strategists believe if the Democrats can get 71 percent of its base to the polls on November 7, Democratic candidates will win with at least a five-point margin. The lower the turnout the more complicated Democrats’ chances of winning become, especially in an off year election, when voters, especially Democrats, tend to stay home.

African Americans, the most reliable part of the party’s voting base, is important and a huge turnout is needed to help Democrats. Recently, the GUIDE asked politicians, pastors and activists to lend their ideas on how to ensure a large Black voter turnout November 7.

State Delegate Cliff Hayes represents the 77th District which is lodged in Chesapeake. Hayes says retaining the State House is critical for the Democrats to beat back conservative Republican legislation which threatens civil rights and the economic stability of the poor, women and minority Virginians.

Hayes says the new Governor will oversee the next political redistricting, based on the 2020 Census.

The party in control of the General Assembly will control that process.

“After 2020, we will not have another chance until 2031,” said Hayes.

“Republicans control the legislature, but Democrats are able to turn back the most draconian GOP legislation because Gov. (Terry McAuliffe) has 34 Democrats in the House of Delegates who sustain his veto of such bills.

“The governor vetoed education bills which would shift education funds and benefits from the public to private schools,” said Hayes. “If you want to educate your child in the private schools fine. But we should not take money from school divisions already struggling.”

Hayes said House and Senate Republicans in Virginia are standing in the way of Medicaid in the state. So half a million Virginians cannot use the Affordable Care Act (ACA), forfeiting “$7 million a day to other states which could be used in Virginia to cover our people.”

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Joe Dillard, President of the Norfolk NAACP, said that “if Donald Trump is not enough to inspire Black people to go to the polls I do not know what can.”

Dillard said the Trump administration’s policies, and its effort to roll back the legacy of President Barack Obama on many key social issues, should be a wakeup call to those who still can’t believe Trump won last year.

“He started off his campaign attacking Hispanic Americans; he attacks women and now he is attacking Black NFL players,” said Dillard.

Dillard said Republican Corey Stewart, a strong supporter of Trump’s and a supporter of retaining Confederate monuments almost beat Gillespie in the GOP primary race last spring.
Newport News Vice Mayor Tina Vick was first elected to council in 2008. She said despite traditional advertising, social media and other means of communicating with voters, many poor and working class people are not using it to educate themselves about politics.

But she said many low income working people may not vote because political leaders have failed to get them involved in the process.

“They do not see voting making any difference or positive impact on their lives,” said Vick. “They feel being left behind and no one cares. Further they do not see candidates coming to their communities, knocking on their doors and listening to them. I do. But many politicians do not.”

Vick said that many Black people don’t even know Justin Fairfax is Black and running for Lt. Governor. She said that state Democrats should use him more effectively to inspire Black voters in the urban centers to vote.

Former Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright, who lost his reelection bid last year, recalled voter turnout in the majority Black city was high in 2010 when he first ran and in 2012, when he sought reelection the same year Obama did.

But he is not sure about the upcoming election.

“I could not tell you why Black people don’t turn out,” said Wright.

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“It’s a mystery in Virginia and across the country. But there are some races, especially for Sheriff where Bill Watson is running as good reason for Black and White people to go to the polls if they are tired of the status quo.”

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State Senator Lionell Spruill represents the Fifth Senate District (Chesapeake and Norfolk). “The older generation, who fought to expand Black political power, did not pass the idea of political activism to their children,” said Spruill. “Young people do not know the importance of voting. They believe everything is to given to them. They don’t realize that you must vote to ensure their rights are maintained.”

State Delegate Daun Hester is seeking the Office of Norfolk City Treasurer. She said she confronted Black voter apathy head on among younger people during a recent meeting with students at Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School.

“Many of the seniors are eligible to vote this fall,” she said, “but they did not seem interested because they kept saying ‘voting does not make a difference’.

“Well, I told them it makes a difference to me because I am devoting my time out here to get elected to be in a position to make a difference for them.”

She continued, “We have to explain to young and old alike that their votes count and they need to support people who will work hard for them. If they want good people in office they have to get involved in the process to assure they get elected.

Rev. Anthony Paige, who is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Lambert’s Point, said he urges his congregation and people in general to vote by “talking it up everywhere I go.”

“We should use every occasion… every gathering to talk it up…to talk up the importance of voting and encouraging people,” he said. “I understand there are many people who are disappointed at the last election. They worked a lot and voted and now they see the tragedy unfolding each day in the White House. Also, you only see politicians come to our gatherings because it’s a crowd and they need our vote.

“We vote for these people and they go to Congress or the state house and forget the reason why we supported them and vote opposite of our interests. This is part of the challenge we have getting people out to vote. And we must hold them accountable.”

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Rev. James Allen James is the President of VBIMC – “Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference” and Associate Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church.

VBIMC is composed of 10 core and associated churches and the group‘s pastors preach to about 27,000 worshipers each Sunday morning.

At Allen’s church, as in other organizations, there is a broad range of demographics: elderly, married couples, singles, and others targeted for a continued voter education and education campaign.

Using a local version of “Souls to the Polls”, van loads of seniors have been given rides to the Virginia Beach City Hall. There, Beach election officials have been bringing the ballots to the curb and allowing the seniors to vote as they sit in the vans.

Allen said tables are set up in the churches and using an address, and the Virginia Department of Election’s website, people can see who represents them, who is on the ballot and respective polling places near their homes.

“We see a great deal of enthusiasm and interest due to our efforts,” said Rev. Allen. “Faith and Freedom go together. The church is the only institution African Americans truly control. And we want to use it to empower our people. We know the importance of this and every election and we want to help as many of our people as possible take part in the process.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

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