Black Voters Could Be Decisive in Alabama Senate Race
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 11/29/2017, 12:50 p.m.
The volatile Alabama Senate race has generated national headlines with the allegations of sexual misconduct by the Republican candidate Roy S. Moore — and the question of whether Moore’s white evangelical base will stick by him. But according to the New York Times, the outcome could also hinge on another key voting bloc: African-Americans, whose participation in the Dec. 12 election will be crucial if the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, is to have a chance. Democrats have not won a statewide race here since 2008, and some worry that Black voters, who make up more than half of the Democratic electorate, are not sufficiently engaged two weeks before the election. Glen Browder, an emeritus professor of political science at Jacksonville State University who served as a Democratic congressman from Alabama from 1989 to 1996, said that Moore’s core supporters see the race in “moral and ideological” terms, and would be highly motivated to go to the polls. But many Black voters, he said, were not equally invested in the race. “I’d say it’s less likely that they will turn out,” he said. Jones’s potential — and his potential problems — are evident in Selma, famous for its role in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, and set in the poor, agricultural, and heavily African-American swath of the state known as the Black Belt. The region is a prime target for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts. Synethia Pettaway, the chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party, said the allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore had heightened awareness of the race among her fellow Black voters, particularly women. “What I’m finding is that the women are not taking it lightly,” Pettaway said, “because I’m finding there are more women who have been sexually harassed or molested than people realize.” But in interviews last Tuesday with 10 African-Americans at a strip mall near the Walmart, six of them said they were not aware that a Senate race was underway. Those who had heard about the race said they were disposed to vote against Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Tabatha Jones, 39, a caregiver, said that she was mostly sick of the incessant turmoil Moore had stirred up over the years — not only over the recent allegations, which troubled her, but also the two times Moore was effectively removed from the state’s high court after he refused to take down a Ten Commandments statue and disagreed with the United States Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage. “It’s not so much Democrat or Republican,” Ms. Jones said. “It’s just all of the drama. Enough of the negativity.”