Four Democratic 2020 candidates court
South Carolina's black voters
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[June 17, 2019]
By Amanda Becker
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Four of the
two dozen Democrats vying for their party's 2020 U.S. presidential
nomination appeared at a Black Economic Alliance forum in Charleston,
South Carolina, on Saturday, with an eye on the key role black voters
will play in the early-voting state.
South Carolina will host the fourth nominating contest next year, after
Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and it is the first state where a
significant proportion of the Democratic electorate - about 60 percent -
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, former U.S.
Representative Beto O'Rourke and U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth
Warren attended Saturday's forum, which was organized by the Black
The candidates want to show their messages resonate with black voters in
South Carolina, potentially portending success in subsequent nominating
contests across the U.S. South.
They also want to prove they can generate enthusiasm among black voters
for their candidacies in the November general election against President
Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee. Democrat Hillary
Clinton's stunning loss to Trump in 2016 was in part attributed to a
decline in black voter turnout for the first time in 20 years.
At the forum, O'Rourke called for increased access to capital for
minority business owners and expunging the arrest records for those with
marijuana convictions, which disproportionately affects communities of
color. Warren discussed her recent proposal for a $7 billion fund to
launch 100,000 minority-owned businesses.
Buttigieg said the percentage of government contracts going to
minority-run businesses should be increased. Booker said improving
economic opportunities for minorities required investments in a variety
of areas, and touted his "baby bonds" plan to close the racial wealth
"We need to plant lots of seeds in our democracy to create the kind of
harvest we need," Booker said.
The Black Economic Alliance was started last year ahead of the 2018
midterm congressional elections, when it endorsed 26 candidates in House
of Representatives, Senate and gubernatorial races.
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U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg delivers
remarks on foreign policy and national security, in Bloomington,
Indiana, U.S., June 11, 2019. REUTERS/John Sommers II
The alliance has pivoted to policy development and decided to host
its forum early in the 2020 election cycle in order to help set the
agenda, Akunna Cook, a founding director of the organization, told
"Black voters are really hungry for candidates who will put forward
concrete plans for these issues," she said. "We wanted to make sure
we were able to help mold and shape the conversation."
In a nationwide survey of 1,003 black adults released by the
alliance earlier this month, 83 percent said the wage gap between
white and black Americans was a big concern, 84 percent said hiring
discrimination was a big concern, and 81 percent said it was hard to
achieve the American dream today.
Warren, addressing the finding on achieving the American dream,
said, "Yes, I think it's really, really tough and I think if we
don't acknowledge that head on we can't diagnose what's wrong,"
The survey showed black adults were most enthusiastic about the
candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, followed by U.S.
Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris. None of the three
attended Saturday's forum but they recorded video messages for the
The focus of the 2020 race will remain on South Carolina next
weekend when Representative Jim Clyburn hosts his annual fish fry in
Columbia, the state capital. It is South Carolina's first "cattle
call," with 22 Democratic candidates scheduled to attend. It will be
followed by forums hosted by the state Democratic Party and Planned
Parenthood Action Fund, which are also expected to draw large fields
(Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Bill
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