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In battleground North Carolina, Harris lends demographic muscle
Joe Bidenís pick for VP can energize women, Blacks
 
Published Tuesday, August 11, 2020 9:55 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | GAGE SKIDMORE
U.s. Sen. Kamala Harris’ nomination as the Democrats’ vice presidential pick could energize Black and women voters in North Carolina.

Will Kamala Harris’ selection as Joe Biden’s vice president nominee move the electoral needle in North Carolina?


The California senator and  checks off critical demographic boxes in North Carolina: She’s the first black woman on a major party’s ticket, has name recognition as a progressive challenger to Biden in the presidential primaries and as a former prosecutor whose interrogations of Attorney General Bill Barr and Supreme Court nominee (now Justice) Brett Kavanaugh as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee made for must-see TV among political junkies.


“I think that she will turn out on the Black vote in North Carolina in ways that perhaps that some of the other candidates might not have been able to do,” Davidson College political science professor Susan Roberts said. “And not just say, [Sen.] Elizabeth Warren, or just because of race because Elizabeth Warren had a lot of support from African American women.”


Warren, who is white, was a rival to Biden and Harris for the nomination during the primary cycle. Harris and Warren ultimately dropped out after the former vice president racked up a string of wins starting with overwhelming Black support in southern states. There are 1.4 million Black registered voters in North Carolina, who make up 21% of the state’s electorate.
“This is, without question, a historic moment – and it is one of the most significant steps forward I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Charlotte Democrat whose congressional district covers most of Mecklenburg County. “Joe Biden knows what it takes to pick the best vice president to run alongside him, and Kamala Harris is just that. Her experiences as [California] attorney general and U.S. senator make her an exceptionally qualified and outstanding candidate to serve alongside President Biden.”


Delores Johnson Hurt, president of the nonpartisan Mecklenburg County chapter of the League of Women Voters, said Harris will break barriers for women in national politics.


“We do not support candidates, or parties, but I think this election is so momentous that party or no or nonpartisan or no or non-political or no, I think this is a great pick for voters to choose among or for,” she said. “It moves the cause of women in politics forward.”


A key constituency the Biden-Harris ticket can also tap into is North Carolina’s Black college students and alumni. With 11 HBCUs – the most of any state – Harris, a Howard University graduate, adds an incentive to generate support within a key segment of Black voters.


“North Carolina has the most students enrolled at historically black colleges and universities anywhere in the country,” Roberts said. “Those students – black white or indifferent – those historically black colleges and universities are going to be fueled, and I think that’s something that North Carolina, or North Carolinians could say: ‘We didn’t mobilize, the Democrats didn’t mobilize the African American vote enough in 2016.”


Democrats have struggled in North Carolina’s presidential elections since the late 1960s. Only twice – Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008 – has the party’s nominee won the state. Obama lost to Mitt Romney in 2012, while Hillary Clinton, the first woman to lead a major party’s ticket, lost to Donald Trump in 2016.


Biden wasted little time praising Harris to supporters via an email through the Democratic Party. In criticizing Trump’s response to the triple crises of racial unrest, recession and COVID-19 pandemic, he made the case for Harris being a capable administrative partner – much like he was for Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.


“I need someone working alongside me who is smart, tough, and ready to lead,” Biden said in a statement. “Kamala is that person.


“I need someone who understands the pain that so many people in our nation are suffering. Whether they’ve lost their job, their business, a loved one to this virus. This president says he ‘doesn’t want to be distracted by it.’ He doesn’t understand that taking care of the people of this nation – all the people – isn’t a distraction – it’s the job. Kamala understands that.”

North Carolina Republicans took shots at Biden as a sellout to liberals by picking Harris and slammed the ticket as out of touch with North Carolina voters.


“Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris demonstrates that he is truly beholden to the radical left,” state Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement. “When Harris was not blasting Biden for his association with segregationists or hitting him on forced busing, Harris pushed racial policies like socialized medicine, open borders and the Green New Deal. Running alongside an out-of-touch California liberal isn’t going to help Joe Biden’s already non-existent chances in the Tar Heel State.”

More than 700 Black women leaders from across the country, who sent an open letter to media last week demanding fair coverage of Biden’s running mate – he signaled it would be a woman earlier in the primary season – are throwing their support behind the ticket.


“We pledge to our Democratic Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that we have your back,” they said Tuesday in a statement. “As the most loyal voters in the Democratic Party we will bring everything we have to igniting and mobilizing Black voters across all demographics to show up in record numbers because the road to the White House will again be powered by Black women.” 

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