Activists in Virginia are watching the gubernatorial race this Election Day to see if a surge of Black voters will sway the results.
Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, has been helping to reach out to Black voters even as Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has been criticized for focusing on white middle-class voters.
However, with Republican Ed Gillespie having defended Confederate statues and going so far as to use that defense in his campaigning, Black voters know that this is “not politics as usual,” Shropshire said.
The PAC was concerned by trailing numbers of Black voters in August, with only 60 percent polled saying that they were likely to vote. However, in an environment where a majority of those contacted felt that minorities were under attack, when voting was framed as a way to “send a resounding message to [President Donald] Trump,” 90 percent of those contacted said they would get out the vote.
What’s more, the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, have sparked outrage and backlash against an administration that doesn’t condemn white supremacy.
“The first time I saw those people in Charlottesville trying to intimidate people of color, it made me angry,” a female narrator says in one of BlackPAC’s radio ads. “Trying to take away our voice. Then when they came back, it made me determined. No one is going to take away my voice.”
“White supremacy stormed into Charlottesville and is being used for political gain,” a female narrator says in a 30-second ad. “We’ve fought too hard for progress to watch it pushed back in the name of Making America Great Again.”
Admittedly, Northam himself has had a hard time reaching out to Black voters, but this race is about more than that, voters say.
Kalen Gainer, a 20-year-old voter, put it succinctly when asked why he was voting: “We need to keep everybody woke.”