Black lawmakers map out plans to boost Democrats this fall

With control of the Senate up for grabs this fall, the Congressional Black Caucus is hitting the road to bolster Democrats facing tough races in the Deep South.

Several CBC members outlined their get-out-the-vote efforts at a press conference Friday at Democratic National Committee headquarters. The caucus, with backing and financial support from the party, will campaign in several key battleground states.

“We’ve looked at six states that are crucial to maintain in the Senate,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. “We better make sure we’re there.”

Caucus members will campaign in North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas and Michigan. The party hopes to mobilize the sizable African-American electorate in those states, which typically votes Democratic.

“We are focused on making sure that we get the kind of turnout we need to win this fall,” said Donna Brazile, a party strategist and vice chair of voter registration and participation at the DNC.

Referring to the last midterm election, she said, “We have different states in play in 2014 than we did in 2010 in terms of the black vote.”

Democrats intend to pay special attention to North Carolina and Louisiana, where two Democratic senators face tough re-election campaigns in states that have been difficult for the party.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the CBC chair, said that in North Carolina, where the race between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis remains pivotal, the “black vote can change that election.”

Brazile said she was hoping for heavy African-American turnout in the state’s Triangle region around Raleigh and Durham. She said the party will also campaign in places Democrats don’t typically target, such as the eastern part of the state.

“This is going to be a very unprecedented campaign in North Carolina,” Brazile said.

Fudge said the CBC also intends to spend considerable time in Louisiana, where African-Americans account for nearly a third of the population and where three-term Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu faces a tough fight to keep her seat.

Orlando Watson, communications director for black media at the Republican National Committee, said the GOP was not conceding the African-American vote to the Democrats. The party was working with church leaders, as well as members of black chambers of commerce, historically black colleges and universities, the Urban League and others. The Republican strategy was “to build and earn trust and then mobilize people to go and vote for Republicans,” he said.

“We are under no illusions, however, that we are going to get 90 percent of the black vote overnight, but just in the past year alone we’ve opened doors and created new dialogues with people we haven’t necessarily spoken to or reached out to in the past,” he said. “There are a lot of possibilities when you build relationships like that.”

CBC members also announced Friday their participation in Freedom Sunday, a civic engagement and voter registration campaign that kicks off this weekend and which is focused on African-American church congregations. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who is also a minister, said the Freedom Sunday campaign is about energizing African-Americans to participate in their democracy.

“If there is something at stake,” Cleaver said, “African-Americans will turn out in huge numbers.”

Renee Schoof of the Washington Bureau contributed.