Warren, Brown vie for black votes as election day draws near
Yawu Miller | 10/31/2012, 7:44 a.m.
If campaign signs and mailers are any indication of votes, incumbent Sen. Scott Brown might actually be doing well in Boston’s black community.
Billboards in Dudley Square Grove Hall declare “he’s with us” and cards slipped through mail slots in the black community feature photographs of Brown and black community residents.
A small army of paid campaign workers has been manning the literature drops and holding signs in busy intersections in the black community, earning $50 a day.
But in a community where Brown eked out just 3 percent of the vote in the January, 2010 special election, his campaign may be facing an uphill battle to convert a reflexively Democratic electorate to GOP supporters.
“I think he may get zero,” said veteran political activist Bob Marshall, who is volunteering for the Warren campaign. “He’s not talking about anything that deals with the community.”
Marshall points to key votes Brown cast in the Senate that he says undermined the interests of the black community, including his opposition to Obama’s health care plan and a vote against funding for youth jobs. Paying people to hold signs doesn’t earn him any points in Marshall’s view.
“I think Scott Brown is disrespecting our community,” Marshall said. “The people he has working for him are bought and paid for. It’s a disgrace.”
The Brown campaign hired Ben Thompson, who served as chairman of the city’s Election Commission under former Mayor Raymond Flynn, to run Obama Supporters for Brown. Thompson, who describes himself as a Democrat who voted for Brown in 2010, says his primary aim is to educate voters.
“This is a general election,” Thompson said. “Voters can split their ticket and vote for both Obama and Brown.”
Thompson says he also aims to increase Brown’s vote in the black community, including Boston’s Wards 12 and 14, where his totals were just 3 percent of the vote in 2010.
“The black community is not monolithic,” Thompson said. “If we accept this fact, then it makes sense to be engaged with every candidate who runs for office.”
Brown’s vote totals in the black community may not be large, but he and Warren are polling in a dead heat, so competition for votes may be fierce.
Compounding the challenge for Brown, the Obama campaign and get-out-the-vote efforts headed by union-led organizations and nonprofits will likely pull more infrequent voters out to the polls in the black community.
While Brown could afford to ignore black voters in the special election, this time around every vote counts.
The fierce competition for votes locally, coupled with Obama’s tight race against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has Warren volunteers energized, according to Brother Kinney, a longtime political activist who is supporting Warren.
“This election is probably the most important election in our time,” he said. “The policies that come out of Washington will impact us for the next era. Obama needs to have folks in the Senate who will help him get his legislation through. If we expect to have jobs and educational opportunities in our community, we must elect Obama and Warren.”