Klobuchar, amid Biden VP search, scrambles to fix relations with black community

Klobuchar, seeking VP spot, scrambles to fix relations with black community

5/23/2020 5:34:00 PM

Klobuchar, seeking VP spot, scrambles to fix relations with black community

Amy Klobuchar works urgently to repair her relations with the black community — and shore up her odds of becoming Joe Biden’s running mate

ADADSharpton said in an interview he is not"anti-Amy Klobuchar," but he cited concerns about her prosecutorial tenure, including the Burrell case. He said the issue could compound criticism of Biden's record on criminal justice."It would be playing to a weakness of his, rather than a strength," Sharpton said.

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The day after ending her campaign, Klobuchar met with Burrell's family. Two days later, she sent a letter to the current county attorney calling for"an independent investigation and an independent review of the case."That drew praise from prominent black leaders such as

NAACP President Derrick Johnson, but others were not fully satisfied. Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer who has met with Klobuchar, said it was a"good gesture," but it"should not have taken so much effort" to devote attention to revisiting the case. She expressed"serious concerns" about Klobuchar potentially joining the ticket.

ADADHer current outreach to black communities is still getting mixed reviews. Beyond collaborating with black leaders, Klobuchar has been using her Senate platform to embrace high-profile measures designed to help African Americans and other disadvantaged groups.

She successfully pushed a rule requiring phone carriers to lower their rates for prisoners during thecoronaviruspandemic. She worked with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to combat price gouging and expand broadband Internet access.She has also suggested expanding early voting and voting by mail, winning praise from black leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who endorsed her proposal. In an interview, Jackson noted that he also supports a voting plan offered by Harris.

ADShortly before a contested Democratic primary in Illinois, Klobuchar endorsed Cook County state's attorney Kim Foxx, who is African American and had drawn accusations of not being tough enough on actor Jussie Smollett. Foxx won renomination.ADStill, some black leaders said they remain skeptical of Klobuchar's record after feeling overlooked by her for so long.

"I think for her she understands that she has to shore up that support because African Americans are a considerable constituency," said Martin, the black journalist who said he was snubbed by Klobuchar during the primary contests. But he contended there would be a"visceral" reaction against her by black voters if she becomes Biden's running mate, and"I think it's going to make it real hard for her to be the VP choice."

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Asked Thursday on"The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" whether Klobuchar was on his short list, Biden would not say, offering only,"Amy's first-rate, don't get me wrong."The former vice president suggested his search process is ramping up. He has assembled a team to"go down a preliminary list of people, ask their interests, ask them general questions," he told Colbert."That process is coming to an end now."

ADBiden has said he is looking at about a dozen candidates, but has been reluctant to divulge specific names.Klobuchar was not the only Democratic presidential contender who lacked strong ties with the black community, but activists say that unlike some others — such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — Klobuchar did little to remedy that during the primary.

For some activists pushing Biden to choose a black woman for his running mate, Klobuchar is an even less welcome choice than other white prospects."There's a growing movement among folks that are really directly demanding a black woman on the ticket or woman of color on the ticket," said Robinson, of Color of Change."And then there are folks who would probably be comfortable with some other women — white women — who have had relationships and built relationships with the community."

Robinson said Klobuchar has canceled multiple meetings that he's tried to set up with her and has not consulted with his group about her voting rights legislation.Klobuchar missed a deadline to provide the Black Women's Roundtable Public Policy Network with answers to a presidential candidate questionnaire, answering it only after she was publicly criticized, said Melanie Campbell, who runs the organization.

"My experience was that when you were running for president, you didn't respond until we put pressure — or at least your campaign was pressured to respond," recalled Campbell."As a candidate, there was not a strong engagement with our community, especially black women."

Martin grew so frustrated during the primary that after consulting with other top black journalists, he launched a #wheresamy hashtag on social media to push her to engage with African American journalists. It didn’t work, he said.But after Sharpton called her out publicly in late February at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, Klobuchar and Martin quickly connected backstage that day, Sharpton and Martin recalled.

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Klobuchar appeared on Martin’s show after Sharpton scolded her. But that did not totally erase his feeling of being neglected.“That’s the thing that campaigns don’t get,” Martin said. “You think you didn’t need us at the moment. Now you’re trying to be the VP nominee. And it’s like, ‘Damn, I wish I had done that.’”

Matt Viser contributed to this report.Election 2020: What to knowUpdated May 20, 2020since he announced his candidacy five years ago and is blaming Democrats. Read more: The Washington Post »

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