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How Democrats' outreach to Black voters impacted the election

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Joining us now is Quentin James. He is president of The Collective. It's a political action committee that works to get Black candidates elected. In June of 2021, he was on this program urging Democrats not to wait to engage voters of color. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: We were waiting there for a clip of what Quentin James told us back in 2021, which was essentially that Democratic support among Black men had been dropping. And he said if Democrats want to stop those trends, they've got to do some outreach. Quentin is back on with us this morning. Thanks for being here.

QUENTIN JAMES: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So did Democrats heed your warning, Quentin? Did they start engaging with voters of color earlier?

JAMES: You know, I think they did in certain areas. I think last night was really interesting to kind of see how the race broke out state by state. And we can look to places that we were really concerned about - you know, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina even. And we see that, you know, voters of color, Black voters, Black men - they were engaged, you know, from the Democratic Party. And I think the results kind of show that as well.

MARTIN: What do you make of what's happening in Georgia?

JAMES: You know, it's very interesting. I think everyone's now kind of saying there will be a runoff on December 6 for the Senate race. But it is kind of really unfortunate to see the results of the governor's race, where Stacey Abrams is kind of running even behind where she was in 2018. Some concerted effort from the Republicans there to kind of go after, you know, certain Abrams voters, whether it be African Americans, you know, some Black men, to kind of peel off some of that support. And I think that strategy, you know, unfortunately, it worked. But I think, you know, major kudos to Leader Abrams in her work. I think the reason Georgia is now a swing state is because of everything that she's done there. And so while she won't be victorious in that race, you know, everyone else who is, is due to her work there.

MARTIN: But it obviously can't come down to just black voters. But did her campaign or did the larger national Democratic Party fail to some degree to reach those communities and make the case for her?

JAMES: No, no, no, I don't think that's the case. I mean, when we look at the numbers, if every Black voter had voted for Stacey Abrams who voted for the governor there, she still would have lost.

MARTIN: Brian Kemp, yeah.

JAMES: And so there wasn't enough ground to make up there. I think there was a real effort to actually, you know, amongst some of the swing white voters and white women who actually didn't support her. And so there was a lot of cross-ticket voting not just in Georgia, but across the country. We're seeing that kind of play out in Wisconsin as well. And so I think it's a little bit deeper than that. But I think we can say today that Black voters were engaged from the party, from the candidates in a much better way than kind of what we were thinking it would be at this point.

MARTIN: May I ask you to reflect on the historic win in Maryland - Wes Moore becoming the first Black governor in that state, the third Black governor in the country?

JAMES: Exactly. It's a huge night for, I think, the next generation of Black political leadership around the country. You know, you mentioned Wes Moore - we're extremely proud of him and helped do a lot of work for him. But we also have, you know, the first Black lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania and New York. And so these were some tremendous wins for Black voters and Black candidates running across the country. And I think we're going to see a lot more of that coming in 2024 and in the future.

MARTIN: Is there anything that you have learned personally from these results as we see them now that you can apply in two years, in 2024?

JAMES: Well, yeah, I think part of this is really about when we invest and where we invest, we see, you know, a lot of great results. The Democratic Party has a huge problem in Florida where the party didn't really invest, and we see what happened there. But in states like, you know, Arizona and Nevada and Wisconsin, we see a lot of investment. We see some great results.

MARTIN: Quentin James is the president of The Collective, a political action committee working to get Black candidates elected. Thank you for your time and reflections this morning. We appreciate it.

JAMES: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.