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Harris Finds Mostly Strong Support In Durham

Kamala Harris shook a lot of hands and took a lot of selfies when she was in Durham over the weekend. But while some people paid thousands of dollars to take a professional photo with the U.S. Senator and hopeful President, it was clear that her real friend is the new pastor of St. Joseph AME Church – the Rev. Jonathan Augustine.

"They tell me a preacher cannot tell the people who to vote for, but the preacher can always say who he or she is voting for," Augustine told the congregation. "And when I vote for the 46th president the United States of America, I am voting for the United States Senator from the great state of California, Kamala D. Harris!"

Amid the applause, Harris gave a big smile as she stood up and headed for the pulpit. She was one of the featured guests at St. Joseph's #SocialJusticeSunday program.

"And yes pastor, I know you can't tell people who to vote for, but you can tell people who to pray for," Harris said to more applause.

 Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris hugs a boy during a worship service at St. Joseph's AME Church in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Aug 25, 2019.
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC
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For WUNC
Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris hugs a boy during a worship service at St. Joseph AME Church in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Aug 25, 2019.

Harris was surrounded by hundreds of African American Democratic supporters at church Sunday. A big chunk of the room wore pink and green – members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, the sorority Harris pledged while a student at Howard University.

"I don't have a problem with (mixing religion and politics)," said Gerrelyn Patterson of Durham. "I think God explains clearly with us what his directives are so I choose a church that aligns with my religious and political beliefs."

Going to church turned out to be a bright day for Harris on the campaign trail. The latest CNN poll shows her support has dropped a whopping 12 points since late June. Former Vice President Joe Biden still leads the pack of Democrats in the race for President, followed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But that's not what Harris talked about while in Durham. She also didn't talk much about her record as a prosecutor or Attorney General in California, either in church on Sunday, or the night before at the Durham Convention Center.

But protestors like Michelle Brown with Black Youth Project 100, did talk about how Harris's candidacy is going.

"Given the presidency we have right now we strongly believe that cops don't keep us safe," said Brown. "We think our communities keep us safe. And given that she has been identified as the top cop, we don't see her as the right presidential candidate for us in 2020."

 Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris attends a worship service at St. Joseph's AME Church in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Aug 25, 2019.
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC
/
For WUNC
Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris attends a worship service at St. Joseph AME Church in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Aug 25, 2019.

Inside the Convention Center Saturday night, The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People celebrated its 84th Founders Day. Harris spent that time rubbing elbows with the top Democrats in the state – Governor Roy Cooper, congressmen G.K. Butterfield and David Price, and N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.

"I'm sure, once the other candidates figure out or find out Kamala has been here to Durham, and been here to the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, that some of these other candidates will come in," said Omar Beasley, Chairman of the Durham Committee. "Because they know, as Durham goes, so goes the state, as far as the Democratic party."

Beasley said they will announce their endorsement for president around the end of the year. North Carolina's primary has moved up to Super Tuesday: March 3, 2020.

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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