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LaTosha Brown’s Alabama roots inspired the work she’s doing for Black voters

Micah Danney

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LaTosha Brown, 49, is a Selma native, co-founder of Black Voters Matter and a fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

LaTosha Brown asked the same question of every speaker as they each took their turn during a virtual town hall on Facebook Live earlier this month.

“What do you see?” she asked throughout the event, held to give activists and residents in Selma a platform for their thoughts about changing the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Brown, 49, grew up in Selma. Now based in Georgia, she’s a nationally recognized political organizer and educator, co-founder of Black Voters Matter and a fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Her entreaty to other daughters and sons of Selma was open-ended, meant to center their individual visions for their struggling town and its famous landmark. Until then, the conversation about the bridge’s fate had been playing out on Twitter among people with no connection to the community that maintains its legacy.

That approach is at the heart of everything Brown does, she said. It was the reason that she and radio host and writer Cliff Albright created BVM. They felt that Black voters and the issues affecting them were being ignored, “treated like a footnote if mentioned at all,” Brown said.

Rather than parachuting into communities and organizing as they see fit — “We reject that model,” Brown said — BVM supports existing grassroots infrastructure in Black communities, particularly those outside of the urban centers that tend to be the focus of voting rights initiatives.

The organization does its work year-round, in and out of election season in the 11 states it operates in, nine of them in the Deep South. The work includes voter registration, advocating for policies that expand voting rights and access, resisting voter ID laws, re-entry restoration of rights and strengthening the Voting Rights Act.

BVM also develops organizational infrastructure where little or none exists, including training local staff and developing candidates and a general network, and sometimes funding activities related to specific elections.

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One such election is what BVM is most known for — Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s 2017 defeat of Republican candidate Roy Moore. BVM’s role in the upset demonstrates a reality that Brown said transcends party affiliation and is being debated regarding Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign.

“In many ways, Black people have been reduced down to participation,” she said. “And we see Black people as having the potential for having power.”

Jones’s messaging seemed geared toward a white audience — one campaign ad featured a Union and a Confederate soldier and Jones saying he wanted compromise — so BVM and its partner organizations focused on voters and what was good for them.

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The strategy shifts attention from a candidate and their personal weaknesses and strengths to voters and what is best for them, Brown said. They reminded Black voters that they had agency in state politics and weren’t simply voting to give someone else power.

After Jones won, BVM kept up its efforts and organized an open letter to Jones. One of their stated expectations was that he hire Black staffers. He hired Dana Gresham, making Jones the only Senate Democrat to have a Black chief of staff. BVM lobbied on issues like water and broadband access, using the political victory to steer attention and resources to rural communities that had gone underserved.

“We did not see the election as an end-all-be-all, but just one step along the way that we could use to build power,” Brown said.

She’s worried about voter suppression this election, which Brown said is a problem that goes deeper than Republican versus Democrat or white versus Black. She learned this, she said, when she ran for the state Board of Education in 1998. After a close race, she received a call from the state Democratic Party minutes after the election was certified in favor of the incumbent she opposed. Eight-hundred ballots had been found, she said she was told, in a safe belonging to the sheriff of Wilcox County, where she had many supporters. The sheriff had forgotten about them and it was too late for them to be counted, she said.

Her opponent was a Black man and a Democrat, yet Black votes were suppressed to protect the establishment, Brown claims. 

That’s not extraordinary in Alabama, she said. It is with that expectation that BVM is increasing its activities with an influx of funding and the help of celebrities. The organization recently received $500,000 from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to split between its efforts in Alabama and Georgia. It received the same amount from Michael Jordan last month, and has been promoted by Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Dennis Rodman.  

The support is reflective of the work BVM has done, Brown said, but is also reflective of this political moment.

“I think people have a heightened understanding of the importance and the value of the Black vote, and protecting and advancing democracy,” she said.

In each state that it operates, BVM has between 20 and 25 partner organizations. Alabama is on the higher end because the organization has been there longest. After working all over the country, Brown said that her home state has some of the best grassroots organizing she has ever seen.

“What gives me hope is that in the midst of a state that is rife with structural racism, that is in my opinion on the wrong side of history on anything that is related to justice, that somehow — in the midst of that — the people still rise up,” she said.

She noted that it is primarily Black women at the forefront of these movements. And just as dirty political trickery crosses race and party lines, Brown said, so do the benefits of these movements’ achievements. In a state that consistently ranks among the lowest in the country for public health and education, Brown said that many of those who vote against what she’s fighting for stand to gain from the victories of her and her colleagues.

“To the extent that that state is going to change, Black women are going to transform that state. It is unquestionable,” she said. “We’re going to have to save that state from itself.” 

Micah Danney is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Alabama Republicans compliment Trump on debate performance

The general election will be on Nov. 3. There are two more debates scheduled in October.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020.

Alabama Republicans said that Republican President Donald Trump demonstrated in Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland that he deserves four more years as president of the United States.

The general election will be on Nov. 3. There are two more debates scheduled in October.

Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan

Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said in a statement: “President Trump swiftly demonstrated that his ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept’ record will continue for four more years. The comparison between the two agendas couldn’t be starker. The President’s record in 47 months compared to Joe Biden’s 47 years in office is monumental. President Trump highlighted many of his policies. Joe Biden shared none of his.”

“The topic of Obamacare was clear on the differences in the debate,” Lathan continued. “President Trump removed the individual mandated healthcare tax, implemented price lists for medical procedures and medicines and has cut drug prices. Joe Biden wants to expand government healthcare as he admitted in the debate. Americans are opposed to more government in their healthcare decisions.”

“The wide difference of opening up states to grow our economy was day and night,” Lathan stated. “President Trump wants to open up our economy, as it is already strongly rebounding, while Joe Biden wants to keep it closed by his own words. Joe Biden said he was against defunding the police, however he earlier said he was for defunding them and wanted to use the money in the community instead. He also couldn’t name any first responder groups who have endorsed him while President Trump has a large number of endorsements across the nation. Clearly, this shows where the law enforcement communities stand as the President has stood with them.”

“The President moved quickly with a massive response to the COVID pandemic. He shut down travel with China early on over Democrat objections, including Joe Biden, and instituted ‘Operation Warp Speed’ that is now producing rapid testing and vaccines,” Lathan stated. “Joe Biden said he would do what has already been done by President Trump when pushed on his plan. President Trump made a strong case why he and the U.S. Senate should move swiftly to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy with highly qualified jurist Amy Coney Barrett. Joe Biden continues to hide his list of potential Supreme Court nominees and would not agree to address ‘packing’ the Supreme Court when directly asked.”

“President Trump rejected the radical environmental ‘New Green Deal’ while Joe Biden said he did too, however Mr. Biden is on record embracing it – multiple times,” Lathan said. “He is all over the place on this left-wing AOC agenda. Joe Biden wants to count votes days after they come in past November 3rd as he admitted in the debate. Laws of states prohibit this chaos and courts are stopping it on a daily basis. Americans want someone who will fight for them to keep our country safe and great. President Trump showed tonight he’s a heavyweight fighter who has been putting America first. That’s why President Trump will win re-election on November 3rd.”

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Congressional candidate Barry Moore

“Joe Biden has 47 years of experience at dodging, evading and just flat-out refusing to answer questions on real issues, and it showed during the debate,” Congressional candidate Barry Moore said. “For decades, he’s made a career of empty platitudes, vague accusations and deliberate misstatements, and that was what we saw Tuesday on stage. Joe Biden did everything short of walking off stage to keep from giving specifics about what he will do as President, except for eliminating the Trump tax cuts and raising our taxes to finance his party’s radical agenda. Mr. Biden did that because he’s a politician to the core and that’s what he’s done for his entire career.”

“Donald Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t act like a politician even after nearly four years as President,” Moore continued. “He answered questions directly with facts about his record, and didn’t let Joe Biden get away with his usual waffling, lies, and empty promises. The President’s personal style is confrontative, and I understand that some people don’t like that. But, I also know many, many people who welcome Donald Trump’s standing up to the bullies of the Left, and he did a great job confronting Joe Biden with Biden’s own statements and record.”

“The American people have a clear choice: a man who’s spent nearly half a century as a politician and accomplished little or nothing, or a President who gave us three years of booming economy and is leading us during this pandemic with confidence and conviction,” Moore concluded. “Donald J. Trump is clearly the best choice to be our President for the next four years.”

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Moore is the Republican nominee in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. Moore faces Democratic nominee Phyllis Harvey Hall for the seat currently held by Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama.

Trump Victory Finance Committee member Perry Hooper Jr.

“The Liberal News media is saying that Biden won the Debate,” said Trump Victory Finance Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. “I thought the President won the Debate on the issues.”

“I enjoyed hosting a Trump Debate Watch Party last night. Country music Artist And Runner Up Miss Alabama performed for us before the Debate,” Hooper added. “She sang The National Anthem, Proud to be an American and Eye of the Tiger. Everybody says that the President won the debate but they also are saying he was to aggressive. Come on friends, Trump was Trump and that why we like him. I think the President killed Biden when Biden could not denounce violence and antifa. He hasn’t even called the Democrat Governors and asked them to stop the violence. It’s plain and simple that Biden is beholding to the Left Wing.”

National Federation of Republican Women President Ann Schockett

“President Trump clearly demonstrated how he has accomplished more in 47 months than his opponent has in 47 years of being a career politician,” National Federation of Republican Women President Ann Schockett said. “The President successfully highlighted an historic record of promises kept for the American people and strongly articulated a clear case for guiding our nation to even greater heights during a second term. He emphasized his efforts to combat the pandemic, reignite the economy, champion our first responders and military, uphold the rule of law, and nominate exceptional Supreme Court justices.”

“Joe Biden, as vice president, had presided over the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression and has little to show for decades spent in Washington D.C.,” Schockett continued. “He evaded questions and offered misleading rhetoric to conceal his true agenda of dangerous radical proposals that would wreck our economy, destroy American jobs, undermine our energy independence, and dismantle and destroy our Constitution and country.”

“Affirming the President’s words during the debate that we have to go back to our core values of our country, the NFRW is confident that four more of years of Donald Trump will bring a thriving economy and safer communities,” Schockett concluded. “He is a President who defends our rights and freedoms, loves our country, and embraces what makes America exceptional. Our NFRW army is hard at work getting out the vote for President Trump and our Republican candidates. We’re ready for Election Day.”

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The first presidential debate was held Tuesday

Below are some key moments from the debate.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020.

The first presidential debate was held in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden.

Below are some key moments from the debate. The two candidates bitterly disagreed on what would happen in the election due to the unprecedented amount of mail in election ballots.

Two more debates are planned before the Nov. 3 general election.

On Trump’s Supreme Court nomination

“Elections have consequences, we have the Senate, and we have the White House,” Trump said. “She is outstanding. … We won the election, and we have the right to do it.”

“The American people have a right to say who that nominee is,” Biden said. “We should wait and see what the outcome of this election is.”

“Are you going to pack the court, Joe?” Trump asked.

“I am not going to answer that,” Biden replied.

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On the Democratic health care reform plan

“Your party is socialist,” Trump said of the Democratic health reform plan.

Biden said that the public option was just for those that qualify for Medicaid.

“It is only for people who qualify for Medicaid. The vast majority of the American people would not be in that option,” Biden said. He denied Trump’s charge that the Democratic health care plan was socialist.

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“I am the Democratic Party,” Biden said. “The platform is what I say it is.”

On the Republican health care reform plan

“We are going to let our governors go to other countries to buy drugs,” Trump said of his plan to reform health care.

“Everything he is saying tonight is a lie,” Biden said. “He is a liar, everyone knows it.”

“I want to give them better health care at a better price,” Trump said. “Obamacare was not good. We got rid of the individual mandate.”

“He has no plan for healthcare,” Biden said. “Like everything else he is talking about, he does not have a plan.”

On the coronavirus pandemic

“200,000 dead, over 7 million are infected,” Biden said of the COVID-19 crisis. “The president has no plan.”

“We should be providing the money the House has passed so businesses can stay open,” Biden said. “You need to get out of your bunker, get out of your sand trap.”

“The governors said I did a phenomenal job, most of them said that,” Trump said. “We are weeks away from a vaccine. Therapeutics are already underway.”

“I have spoken to the companies, and we can have it a lot sooner,” Trump said of when the vaccine will be available.

“I have spoken to the scientists, and they will have a vaccine real soon,” Trump said.

Biden criticized Trump’s campaign rallies.

“He has been totally irresponsible, the way that he has handled the crowds, the way that he has handled the social distancing,” Biden said.

“We built the greatest economy in the world. We shut it down because of the China plague,” Trump said. “They have got to open these states up. It is very sad what is going on with divorce and alcoholism.”

“He is going to be the first President in American history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he became President,” Biden said. “You can’t fix the economy until you fix the COVID crisis.”

On Trump’s tax returns

Trump claimed that he paid millions of dollars in taxes in 2016 and 2017 when asked about a New York Times story that showed he paid just $750 in federal income taxes.

“You are the worst President America has ever had,” Biden said.

“I have done more in 47 months than you have done in 47 years,” Trump replied.

Trump said that Biden was not smart and finished last in his college class.

On the economy

“My economic plan would create seven million more than his plan would and would create a trillion more in growth,” Biden said.

Biden said that he wanted to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from the current 21 percent.

“You will lose half the companies that poured in and will have the greatest depression you have ever seen,” Trump responded.

On crime rates, protests and racial justice

“We believe in law and order, and you don’t Joe,” Trump said.

“Violence in response is never appropriate,” Biden said of some Black Lives Matter protests that have turned violent.

“What I support is the police have the opportunity to deal with the problems that they face, and I totally oppose defunding the police,” Biden said.

“Name one law enforcement group that supports you,” Trump said.

Trump when asked if he would condemn racists and white supremacists, said “yes.” But when asked about the Proud Boys, he said that they “should stand back and stand by,” adding a qualifier that most of the problems are coming from the far left.

Biden called Trump a racist and accused of using 1950s racist dog whistles.

On who should win and why

“There has never been an administration or a president that has done more than I have done in three and a half years,” Trump said of why he should be re-elected.

“Under this President we have become weaker, sicker, poorer, and more violent,” Biden replied.

On climate change

“As far as the fires, you need forest management,” Trump said when asked if climate change was causing forest fires in the West. “If you had good forest management you wouldn’t be having that problem.”

“We can get to net zero energy production by 2035 while still creating jobs,” Biden said.

“That is more money than our country could make in one hundred years,” Pres. Trump said of Biden’s environmental plan.

“The Green New Deal is not my plan,” Biden replied. “The Biden plan is different from what he calls the Green New Deal.”

Biden said that he would get the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Accords.

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Alabamians request more than 101,000 absentee ballots with 30 days left to apply

So far, 35,184 absentee ballots have been successfully returned for the general election.

Staff

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(APR GRAPHIC)

At least 101,092 absentee ballots have been requested so far in Alabama according to Secretary of State John Merrill, with just 30 days left to apply for an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 General Election. So far, 35,184 absentee ballots have been successfully returned for the general election.

In order to protect the safety and well-being of voters, Merrill is encouraging those who are concerned about contracting or spreading the coronavirus to apply for and cast an absentee ballot.

Absentee ballot applications can be downloaded online or requested by visiting or calling your local absentee election manager’s office.

Voters may also contact the Secretary of State’s office at 334-242-7210 to request an absentee ballot application.

Due to the declared states of emergency, any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to that individual. In the case none of the boxes are appropriate, voters can check the box which reads, “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”

For the Nov. 3 General Election, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 19, the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is Thursday, Oct. 29, the deadline to return an absentee ballot to the absentee election manager is the close of business Monday, Nov. 2, and the last day to postmark an absentee ballot is Monday, Nov. 2.

Voters who are eligible to vote pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act will have until Tuesday, Nov. 3 to postmark an absentee ballot.

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Voters concerned about COVID-19 are encouraged to select the box on the affidavit, which accompanies the absentee ballot, which reads as follows: “I am physically incapacitated and will not be able to vote in person on election day.”

Due to recently witnessed delays with the U.S. Postal Service, Merrill encourages voters interested in returning their ballot by mail to go ahead and make application for their absentee ballot. As a reminder, Merrill worked with the Legislature last year to pass Act 2019-507, allowing voters the opportunity to return their absentee ballot by commercial carrier in addition to U.S. mail.

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First presidential debate is tonight

Tuesday’s debate, set to begin at 8 p.m. CST, will be moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020. (STAFF SGT. TONY HARP/AIR NATIONAL GUARD AND GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, are preparing for Tuesday night’s debate.

Tuesday’s debate will be moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace. The debate will be at 8 p.m. CST and is being hosted at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Due to COVID-19, the two candidates and the moderator will not shake hands. There will be a small number of ticketed guests inside the debate hall, along with debate officials, crews and TV network anchors including Fox News.

Trump has prepared with help from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York City Major Rudy Giuliani but has chosen not to have traditional lengthy practice sessions.

Trump is suggesting he doesn’t want to overdo it.

“Sometimes you can go too much in that stuff,” Trump told reporters on Sunday.

Biden has been holding mock debate sessions with senior adviser Bob Bauer and top aides, according to CBS News.

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“I’m prepared to go out and make my case as to why I think he’s failed and why I think the answers I have to proceed will help the American people, the American economy and make us safer internationally,” Biden said.

“The president prepares by being president,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh reportedly said. “And by regularly facing hostile news media. That’s pretty good practice by any measure.”

The debate as to whether Trump should have appointed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg will almost certainly come up.

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“Joe Biden spent a lot of time in his basement to study up,” said Lara Trump, the president’s campaign adviser and daughter-in-law. “He’s been in this game for 47 years. I assume he’ll do OK. Quite frankly, the bar has been lowered so much for Joe Biden that if he stays awake for the whole thing it’s like maybe he won.”

The two candidates are running very different campaigns.

From March until the last week in August, according to news reports, Biden made no in-person speeches or campaign appearances. Biden’s events since have been rare and attended by just a few invited guests.

Trump, on the other hand, has been holding mass campaign rallies. Trump has held 14 in-person rallies in September including in swing states New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Minnesota with multiple trips to Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

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