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Sanders makes pitch to Georgia's black voters

Christian Boone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- If Sen. Bernie Sanders is going to win Georgia's Democratic presidential primary, as he vowed Saturday at his first campaign appearance in the state this cycle, he's going to need voters like Wade Jackson.

Jackson, 40, actually voted for Sanders in 2016 when he won just better than a quarter of the vote against Hillary Clinton. The lopsided result was due largely to Clinton's overwhelming support from African American residents.

This time around, Jackson, a black Georgia voter, said he's undecided for now about which Democrat he'll support. He's still considering a few of the nearly two dozen Democrats who have entered the presidential race.

"People are waiting to see if he is who he says he is," Jackson said. Coming to Augusta was a good start, he said.

"He's got to come to our communities and ask for our support," Jackson said.

Without them, Sanders doesn't likely have a chance of winning any of the Southern states, where black voters make up the largest bloc of the Democratic electorate.

 

"He's done his homework this time," said Kenneth Sullivan, a 25-year-old African American voter. The Augusta resident said he noticed black faces everywhere behind the scenes, although there still weren't many in the crowd of nearly 1,600 people who attended Sanders' speech at the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre on the shore of the Savannah River.

Sanders was introduced by black activist and author Cornel West, who has been front and center in Sanders' outreach to African American voters.

"This goes far beyond skin pigmentation. It's not about sexual orientation," West told the crowd. "It's about truth."

In his speech, Sanders quoted abolitionist Frederick Douglass and touted his new education plan named after Thurgood Marshall, America's first black Supreme Court justice.

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