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In tight Senate fight, Warren, Brown reach out to black clergy

Kevin C. Peterson | 10/24/2012, 8:38 a.m.

With less than two weeks remaining in one of the most watched U.S. Senatorial campaigns in Massachusetts history, the race between U.S. Senator Scott Brown and Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren is resulting in unprecedented attention directed to an unlikely source: the black church.

Quietly, both Senate candidates have adopted a strategy of reaching out to black churches across the state, hoping to tap into a wealth of voters who are more likely to visit the election polls on Nov. 6 than any other sector of the African American community.

For Warren, a Democrat, campaigning within the black church circuit was expected, as blacks are considered a reliable base of voters for Democrats.  But lately her campaign has invested significantly more time in visiting houses of worship to ensure that she makes contact with devout black parishioners.

Last Sunday in Springfield, Warren campaigned in as many as four prominent African American churches across the city, including Alban Baptist Church, Cannan Baptist, St. John Congregational Church and The Macedonia Church.

The congregation at Macedonia held special symbolism for the Warren campaign, as the building had recently been restored after arsons set fire to the structure nearly four years ago — hours after President Barack Obama was elected.  The fire was deemed to be a hate crime.

“This senatorial race is very heated and I believe that the vote that comes out of the black church will be the deciding vote,” said Pastor William Dickerson III, who leads the Greater Love Tabernacle in Dorchester and who is president of the Massachusetts Statewide Black Clergy.  Warren visited Dickerson’s church in June.

For Brown, the attempt to attract the attention of the black faith community has quickened recently.  Last week, Brown addressed members of the Black Ministerial Alliance to defend his record on work on behalf of urban voters.  He stressed his efforts in creating anti-mortgage foreclosure policies that he says have abated home losses in the black community. 

Brown also cited a job fair held at the Roxbury Community College in the Spring and trumpeted his effort that led to the release of a prominent Dorchester pastor who was abducted in Egypt last summer.

But some balked at what they believe is a last-minute outreach effort by the Brown campaign.

“I think that it is important that both of them come to the black churches to campaign and be assessable  to black voters,” says Minister Franklin Hobbes, executive director of Healing Our Land and a well-known gospel radio show host on Boston Praise Radio. “And I am glad to hear that Senator Brown is reaching out to the churches, but in general he has not been [accessible] and that is offensive to me.”

“In my opinion, I think that Brown is fearful that Warren has momentum in the black community and is now [trying] to make a push here at the last minute,” added Hobbes, who says that the Brown campaign has not responded to several request to appear on his show. Hobbes admitted that Warren also has not appeared on the black-oriented religious station.