At Witt’s End: Hochul and the Black vote

Hillary Clinton and Kathy Hochul
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raises arms with New York Governor Kathy Hochul at the New York Democratic party 2022 State Nominating Convention in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., February 17, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Stephen Witt

Democratic candidates who short shrift their loyal Black constituency do so at their own peril.

The thought comes to mind when thinking about Governor Kathy’s Hochul’s campaign for governor where there is a growing perception in Central Brooklyn’s large Black community that she’s not working to get their vote.

“I certainly think that the governor could be doing a better job politically reaching out to our community. She’s done some things but I don’t think she’s done enough,” said State Senate Majority Whip Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn). “Certainly, I would like to partner with her in not just the politics of Brooklyn, the largest concentration of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, but in addressing concerns that we have that the government can help alleviate.”

Parker said he thinks the Hochul campaign feels safe in not campaigning hard in the Black community because her Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, is so out of step with this base.  

The Hochul campaign also expects that they’re going to get a bump in terms of white suburban women coming out to support another white suburban woman. At least on pro-choice and those issues, and so they don’t worry about turnout. They expect to win regardless, he said.

“Again, I think that she [Hochul] makes a grave mistake by taking black voters for granted, and not spending more time on campaigning in black communities, particularly Brooklyn, which is not just a large Black community but the largest county in the state,” Parker added.

One central Brooklyn Black source involved in politics said it appears once again the Black vote is being taken for granted. “And when it’s taken for granted everybody suffers. You know, Hillary took it for granted and we got Donald Trump,” the source said.

The source said it’s not a question of whether Hochul is ingratiating herself to Black Brooklyn, but she hasn’t excited Black Brooklyn, and in doing that she runs the risk of Blacks staying home on election day.

The abortion issue, for example, is important to Black women, but it doesn’t move them to vote like it does for white women, the source said. 

The source noted that while Congressman Hakeem Jeffries has endorsed Hochul on paper he hasn’t been on the campaign stump for her. And both Attorney General Letitia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have yet to endorse her.

“She [Hochul] doesn’t have Tish, and she doesn’t have Jumaane. Those are the three you need. The Black woman, your congressional leader and your left flank. That’s what those three will get you in Brooklyn and she doesn’t have it,” said the source.

Does this lack of connection with Black voters mean Hochul is in trouble? Not exactly.

New York remains the most blue of states, and she still has roughly six weeks to make a compelling case in the Black community on why they need to get out and vote on election day.

But let the governor be forewarned. Failing to do so is at her own peril.

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