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Democratic Presidential Candidates Vie For Black Votes In North Carolina

best diner
Naomi Prioleau
A group of black voters met at Best Diner in Greensboro to discuss the upcoming 2020 election.

In the brightly lit Best Diner in Greensboro, a group of black voters discuss their thoughts about the upcoming presidential election.


Democratic presidential candidates and their surrogates are crisscrossing North Carolina as Super Tuesday draws closer. And they’re doing everything possible to appeal to black voters.


North Carolina is one of 14 states that will cast votes on Super Tuesday, the first time in history for this state.


Over coffees and sodas, Kay Brown, a 31-year-old mother, says she has her eyes on a certain Democratic candidate.


"Bernie Sanders, because the issues that I really care about he's had a platform on it, he's been consistent on it," she said. "Even after he didn't win, he continued to stay active and engaging."


black voters
Credit Naomi Prioleau / WUNC
Over coffees and sodas at Best Diner in Greensboro, a group of black voters talked about the 2020 presidential race and how the black vote plays a critical role.

The black vote is important for candidates to secure. Black voters make up about 22% of the electorate vote in North Carolina. They were a key part of the coalition that pushed Barack Obama to victory in the state in 2008.

"The North Carolina electoral system in many ways is dependent upon black voters and black voters turning out at high levels," said Elon University Poll Director Jason Husser. "The Democrats can't really exist in a current form without African American voters in North Carolina."

The black vote is especially important in Southern states.

"When you start looking at those 13 Southern states, those votes mean a whole lot, particularly if you're a Democrat," said State Senator and North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Paul Lowe.

Lowe is endorsing Democratic candidate Joe Biden for president. Until recently, Biden had a solid lead with black voters in the state. He stood at 39% with black voters in a Public Policy Polling survey from early February, but that was before primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire. At the time, Mike Bloomberg was at 12% and Bernie Sanders, 10%.

Biden is counting on the black Southern vote to save his campaign. He has support in leadership here as well. In addition to Lowe, U.S. Representative G.K. Butterfield is a surrogate for Biden and travels throughout the U.S. and North Carolina on his behalf.

Butterfield said there's a reason Biden is getting a lot of support from black voters.

"Look at Biden's record over the last 40 years," said Butterfield. "Look at what he did when he was in the United States Senate. The legislation that he supported and promoted, he has been an ally."

Biden isn't the only candidate who wants the black vote in North Carolina. Pete Buttigieg made a high-profile visit back in December, addressing Reverend William Barber's congregation in Goldsboro.

Mike Bloomberg — as well as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — continue to make stops in urban areas of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and other cities with significant African American populations. Amy Klobuchar has not yet campaigned in North Carolina.

Back at Best Diner, Kay Brown doesn’t know if she'll head to the polls if her candidate doesn't win the nomination.

"I'm going to be honest, it depends," she said. "I think that that is the thing that the Democrats are going to be hedging bets on. [That] some of the momentum that they got and saw with Obama, depending on the candidate you choose, that momentum goes away."

The possibility that black voters might stay home in November worries G.K. Butterfield.

"We have to win this election, we've gotta get this right," he said. "We have some good candidates running in the Democratic primary. All of them would be better than President Donald Trump."


Naomi P. Brown joined WUNC in January 2017.
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