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Kamala Harris Woos Black And Latino Voters As Joe Biden’s Running Mate

The Democratic vice-presidential nominee has focused on the coronavirus and its disproportionate effect on communities of color in campaign-trail appearances. Kamala Harris Woos Black And Latino Voters As Joe Biden’s Running Mate

Kamala Harris Woos Black And Latino Voters As Joe Biden’s Running Mate

California Sen. Kamala Harris Attending A Community Conversation With African-American Leaders At Florida Memorial University In Miami Gardens Last Week.

In her first month as Joe Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris has used Spanish phrases at a Venezuelan restaurant, swayed to a marching band performance at a historically Black university and made a surprise virtual appearance at an event with two R&B stars.

Ms. Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica and the first Black woman to be a major party’s vice-presidential nominee, has been deployed by the Biden campaign to try to connect with immigrant and minority communities since she joined the ticket in mid-August.

The California senator’s outreach comes as polls show Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, leading President Trump nationally and in many battleground states, but underperforming with Latino voters in some surveys, compared with Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats are also trying to boost Black voter turnout, which dipped four years ago.

Ms. Harris’s campaign events—which have been virtual, and more recently, in person—have typically featured discussions with Black women, Latino small-business owners, and Black and Latino activists.

She has focused on the coronavirus pandemic and its disproportionate effect on communities of color, promoting Mr. Biden’s plans for re-opening businesses with more funding for protective equipment, expanding testing and distributing vaccines once one is approved.

She also portrays Mr. Biden as a uniter who would invest in minority communities and prioritize overhauling the policing system.

JeDonna Dinges, 57 years old, one of the Black small-business owners from Michigan who participated in a virtual discussion with Ms. Harris, said the event made her feel like her voice was important.

“That’s key,” Ms. Dinges said. “We are feeling super marginalized right now. We are feeling under attack right now.”

The Trump campaign has tried to win over some Black voters, including by highlighting in ads that Mr. Trump signed into law the First Step Act, a criminal-justice overhaul measure that Ms. Harris supported.

He has also tried to make inroads with Latinos in swing states like Florida and Nevada, calling the Democratic ticket socialists. Some Democrats in Florida have been especially concerned about the Latino vote there, as Mr. Trump has solidified his support among Cuban-Americans.

Republicans have struggled to come up with a consistent line of attack against Ms. Harris. In recent weeks, Vice President Mike Pence also has said she is too far to the left, citing her vote against the Trump administration’s renegotiated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

The senator from California, whose state has been overwhelmed by wildfires in the past month, has said the deal didn’t do enough to address climate change.

“Harris put their radical environmental agenda ahead of Wisconsin dairy and ahead of Wisconsin power,” Mr. Pence said while campaigning there earlier this month.

Ms. Harris started campaigning in person this month, maintaining a focus on minority communities. In Wisconsin, she met with the family of Jacob Blake, who was shot multiple times by a police officer in Kenosha, last month, leading to protests against police brutality.

In Florida, she introduced herself to masked patrons while picking up arepas, South American grilled corn cakes, at a restaurant in Doral, dubbed “Doral-Zuela” because of the large Venezuelan-American population there. During events with immigrants, she frequently brings up the need for free testing for Covid-19, regardless of immigration status.

“She understands what immigrant families go through and how hard it is to make it in America,” said Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents part of Miami-Dade County and has participated in campaign events with Ms. Harris.

Ms. Harris also visited Florida Memorial University, a historically Black college, where the marching band performed for her ahead of a discussion on challenges facing the Black community.

Ms. Harris’s outreach to Black voters has at times included unlikely stops for a presidential campaign: She made a surprise appearance during a face-off between R&B stars Brandy and Monica that drew 1.2 million viewers.

Ms. Harris has also had private calls with Black activists and celebrities across the country whom she aims to keep engaged in the campaign, including members of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, Black Lives Matter leaders, NBA star Chris Paul and rapper Snoop Dogg, according to a person familiar with the calls.

In some appearances, she has highlighted Mr. Trump’s comments in recently released recordings in which he admitted to publicly playing down the severity of the coronavirus, which has had an outsize impact on Blacks and Latinos.

“Here we are in this community, talking about the number of deaths, talking about the number of people who have contracted the virus…and the commander-in-chief of the United States was in possession of this information that long ago but conducted himself the way he did,” Ms. Harris said during the discussion with Black elected officials and activists at FMU.

Mr. Trump has said he was trying to keep people from panicking over the virus.

In her presidential primary campaign, Ms. Harris struggled to win over voters, including Black and Latino Democrats, when she was less well-known than some of her competitors and faced criticism from some progressives over her record as a prosecutor.

Recent polling from Monmouth University found she had a 43% favorable and 37% unfavorable rating as Mr. Biden’s running mate. That was up from a 27% favorable and 46% unfavorable rating in a poll conducted by Monmouth last November when she was running for president.

Ms. Harris has headlined roughly two dozen virtual fundraisers since being named as Mr. Biden’s running mate, helping the campaign bring in an unprecedented $364 million last month. A single grass-roots fundraiser this week featuring Ms. Harris and Mrs. Clinton raised $6 million.

She is also featured prominently in ads aired by Mr. Biden’s campaign and Democratic outside groups in a way that is unusual for a vice-presidential nominee. In a 60-second spot aired by the campaign in swing states, Ms. Harris speaks about overhauling policing and racial justice.

New ads and literature mailed to voters by BlackPAC, which is focused on turning out Black voters in key states, highlight her biography and record.

Adrianne Shropshire, the group’s executive director, said they are trying to help define Ms. Harris for Black voters, saying BlackPAC found in focus groups that they don’t know much about the California senator. The group is preparing more digital ads targeting younger Black voters.

“She should be defined by the totality of her record,” Ms. Shropshire said, adding that Ms. Harris has brought attention to issues that disproportionately affect Black Americans. “Who else other than a Black woman would bring legislation on fibroids to the Senate floor?”

Chuck Rocha, who runs a Latino-focused super PAC, said Mr. Biden’s campaign could still do more to emphasize Ms. Harris’s biography to boost his support among Latino voters in key states.

“She could be his secret weapon, because she comes from an immigrant family,” he said. Given her background, he said, the ad “writes itself.”

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