Could this be the year Democrats score a big win in Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of Black residents? Taylor Vance explores the possibilities in his article, “Inside the Democratic Party’s coordinated effort to turn out Black voters for the Nov. 7 election” at Mississippi Today. Some excerpts from Vance’s article:
The get-out-the-vote efforts from Democratic Party officials have continued into late October and have been focused across the state, not just in the Jackson metro.
This past weekend, state party leaders attended multiple events on the Gulf Coast, including a get-out-the-vote rally Sunday night at First Missionary Baptist Church Handsboro in Gulfport. The event, which organizers titled “Wake the Sleeping Giant,” was keynoted by Bishop William James Barber II, co-chair of the national organization Poor People’s Campaign.
The party will host a virtual organizing event called “Souls to the Polls” on Oct. 28, which is the first day of in-person absentee voting. The party has also hosted several town hall-style events in multiple Mississippi towns over the past few weeks focused on the state’s hospital crisis before mostly-Black audiences, culminating with a final stop on the tour in Jackson on Oct. 25.
And while party leaders organize their own events, Democratic candidates are benefitting from the independent electoral work of numerous third-party progressive organizations that are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to knock doors and target hyper-local Black communities. These groups, many of which have long organizing histories in Mississippi, are pumping money this cycle into door-knocking, phone banking, direct mailing, and digital and radio advertising.
Vance adds that “the party’s work of the past few weeks marks a noticeable shift in strategy to energize its base ahead of the 2023 election. Lackluster efforts with Black voters during the 2019 statewide election cycle from former state party leaders notoriously left candidates frustrated and Democratic voters feeling left behind..” Vance notes that “Black Mississippi voters make up the overwhelming foundation of the Democratic Party — about two-thirds of the party’s voting base.”
Vance explains further,
The bulk of media attention and national party resources during the election cycle has focused on [Brandon] Presley, the Democratic nominee for governor who has mounted a formidable campaign against Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and recently outraised the incumbent governor in campaign donations.
But most of the recent Black voter outreach events have not been framed exclusively around Presley’s race or any specific candidate. Rather, they have served as a repudiation of conservative policies over the last four years that, in the Democratic leaders’ view, harm Black communities. The events have served as a call to action to elect all Democrats on the ballot.
However, there have been instances when Presley’s work as north Mississippi’s public service commissioner was lauded, and his attendance at predominantly Black churches, HBCU football games and other places over the past few weeks was clearly noticed.
Presley has a powerful ally in Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who President Biden has credited with providing pivotal support for his election to the presidency. Clyburn is campaigning for Presley in Mississippi and advising him on strategy and tactics to win a pivotal share of the Black vote.
While the contest for governor is Mississippi’s marquee race, Vance writes, “The governor’s race aside, several progressive officials proclaimed the slate of Democratic statewide candidates was strong, and they were building a better foundation for the party that can continue to be stronger in future years.”
As a moderate Democrat, Presley has a good chance to take away some votes from the Republican incumbent. In addition, Clyburn notes that Presley was instrumental in securing substantial funding for the inclusion of broadband for rural communities in the bipartisan infrastructure bill congress passed in 2021.