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RESPECT

The 26 places where Democrats should invest in black voters in 2018

Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Latin America reporter

The unlikely win of a US Senate seat by a Democratic candidate in deeply Republican Alabama has underscored the power of black voters—and the terrible job Democrats have done of courting them in the past.

Doug Jones, the former federal prosecutor who beat Roy Moore in the Alabama special election, launched an unusually aggressive campaign reaching out to African-Americans in the state. If Democrats want to recreate his victory elsewhere, they’re going to have to inject the same kind of resources—and then some. Other Republican candidates are unlikely to motivate black Democratic voters to go to the polls in opposition more than Moore, who had waxed nostalgic about the days of slavery.

Black leaders have been urging the Democratic party to do more to motivate voters in their community for a while. They say Democratic candidates have taken black voters for granted and don’t speak about the issues they care most about. They’ve put little effort into convincing African-Americans to vote, and when they do, it’s at the very last minute. Ahead of the Alabama election, a writer for African-American culture magazine The Root condemned the “entire Democratic party,” including Jones, as “trash” in a piece that listed those and other grievances.

Now that the Alabama results have Democrats finally paying attention, African-American voters, activists and their advocates are reminding the party of those failures, and offering advice on how to make up for them. The Brookings Institution has compiled a list of 26 cities with a majority African-American population that could help Democrats win or hold Senate seats in 2018. These would be good places for Democrats to start:

CityTotal population% of Black population 18+
Wilmington, Delaware71,54941
Lauderhill, Florida69,97959
Miami Gardens, Florida112,02158
North Miami, Florida62,04246
Pine Hills, Florida66,90651
Gary, Indiana78,48362
Baltimore, Maryland622,45449
Bowie, Maryland56,88538
Waldorf, Maryland71,39941
Detroit, Michigan690,07462
Flint, Michigan99,80241
Pontiac, Michigan59,92838
Southfield, Michigan72,85956
Jackson, Mississippi173,21259
Camden, New Jersey76,90434
East Orange, New Jersey64,57871
Irvington township, Essex County, New Jersey54,32063
Newark, New Jersey279,79338
Trenton, New Jersey84,63238
Mount Vernon, New York68,22152
Cleveland, Ohio390,58439
Memphis, Tennessee657,16747
DeSoto, Texas51,47854
Hampton, Virginia137,08139
Portsmouth, Virginia96,13540
Richmond, Virginia213,73539

And 31 cities that could make a difference in 2020 for the Senate—and for the presidential race by default.

CityTotal population% of Black population 18+
Birmingham, Alabama212,21156
Mobile, Alabama194,66938
Montgomery, Alabama202,96744
Wilmington, Delaware71,54941
Albany, Georgia76,46652
Atlanta, Georgia448,90142
Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia196,63541
Macon-Bibb County, Georgia154,60839
Savannah, Georgia142,91941
Valdosta, Georgia56,50438
Baton Rouge, Louisiana229,18642
Lake Charles, Louisiana74,19035
New Orleans, Louisiana376,73846
Shreveport, Louisiana200,01541
Detroit, Michigan690,07462
Flint, Michigan99,80241
Pontiac, Michigan59,92838
Southfield, Michigan72,85956
Jackson, Mississippi173,21259
Camden, New Jersey76,90434
East Orange, New Jersey64,57871
Irvington township, Essex County, New Jersey54,32063
Newark, New Jersey279,79338
Trenton, New Jersey84,63238
Rocky Mount, North Carolina56,64248
North Charleston, South Carolina104,14636
Memphis, Tennessee657,16747
DeSoto, Texas51,47854
Hampton, Virginia137,08139
Portsmouth, Virginia96,13540
Richmond, Virginia213,73539

Some of the cities on the lists are in toss-up states where a sliver of the electorate has the potential to swing the results, such as Michigan and Florida.

They also include places in Republican strongholds such as Texas, Mississippi, and South Carolina that went for Donald Trump by a wide margin in 2016. In the past, Democrats had written off those states as unwinnable. Alabama might change those calculations.

“When society’s assumptions around who should be valued catches up to the actual assets in black communities, we will see the kind of victories in Alabama in all of our communities, businesses and schools,” wrote Andre Perry, a fellow at Brookings metropolitan policy program.

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