When Hillary Clinton speaks to the Trayvon Martin Foundation in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, she will be continuing her groundwork to boost black voter turnout in Florida.
Clinton will likely repeat familiar themes of importance to black voters, such as inequalities in the criminal justice system, voting rights, school segregation and gun violence, which helped her crush Bernie Sanders in the Florida primary March 15.
She has continued similar messages now that she is focusing on Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee. A recent poll showed Clinton and Trump in a dead heat in Florida, a crucial swing state.
Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager from Miami Gardens, was shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford on Feb. 26. 2012. The fatal shooting ignited a heated debate across the nation about race, gun rights and Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, has endorsed Clinton.
A $1,500 minimum donation to the foundation is required to attend Saturday’s dinner, which will be held at the Embassy Suites on 17th Street. Clinton will also fundraise while in South Florida.
For Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, there is no question that more black Floridians will cast ballots for her than Trump on Nov. 8. The question is whether she can turn out black voters in Florida and the nation at rates similar to President Barack Obama to help her win. About 13 percent of Florida’s voters are black.
Black voters were a key to Obama winning Florida twice. In 2012, blacks voted at a higher proportion than whites nationwide and in Florida.
In 2012, 93 percent of black voters cast ballots for Obama nationwide and 95 percent in Florida, according to exit polls. During the March 15 Democratic primary in Florida, 81 percent of blacks voted for Clinton.
“President Obama was an unusual, historical candidate,” said Rev. Henry Green, who leads the Mount Vernon AME church in Fort Lauderdale. “To expect Hillary Clinton to equal those numbers may be somewhat beyond the scope. However, I do believe we will have a very strong turnout, but I won’t predict it will be equal to what we’ve done under President Obama.”
Clinton’s outreach to black voters in Florida predates this election. In 2004 when she was a U.S. Senator, she campaigned in Fort Lauderdale’s black community on behalf of the Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. During her first presidential bid in 2007, she chose Liberty City for her first public appearance in Florida. Early in that race, some black leaders endorsed her, including Congressmen Alcee Hastings.
“She has put in time in the black community — at least in Broward — and not just at church on the last Sunday,” said state Sen. Chris Smith, of Fort Lauderdale. “It’s up to us to increase turnout. [When Obama ran] it was all hands on deck like I’ve never seen before. We are going to need that again.”
Early on in the presidential race this year, Clinton reached out to black voters in Florida. Last summer, she gave a speech at the National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale and while speaking about voting rights in Texas, she recounted Florida’s past efforts to purge voters that disproportionately hurt African-Americans.
Before the Florida primary, Clinton announced that 80 black elected officials and community leaders had endorsed her in Florida. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, spoke in black-majority Miami Gardens a few weeks before the primary.
For her to draw in black voters in November, Clinton needs to continue to talk about issues of high importance in the community including affordable college education, unequal treatment in the criminal justice system and continuing Obama’s domestic agenda, say black elected officials.
And that includes gun control — a key issue where she differs from Trump.
“FACT: Donald Trump would force schools to allow guns in classrooms on his first day in office,” Clinton tweeted on May 14.
Trump has promised to get rid of gun-free zones at schools on his first day as president and reverse Obama’s executive orders on guns. In 2000, he supported a ban on assault weapons but has since flip flopped on that.
Trump has made comments about minority groups many have found offensive including when he has said Mexican “rapists” are crossing the border and mimicked a physically disabled New York Times reporter.
“There has been a general feeling of people who are different are not who he is appealing to,” said state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami. “When he makes fun of a disabled guy, talks about Hispanics, degrades women, believe me, we understand African-Americans are soon on that list if not already.”
But Trump has bragged that various voting blocs love him, including minorities. He has tried to appeal to them with economic messages about improving job opportunities.
“But I think I’m going to do great with the African Americans,” he told the Washington Post in April. “I think I’m going to do great with Hispanics. I’m going to bring jobs back to the country. I’m not going to let people take our jobs. I’m not going to let people go. I’m not going to let factories and Nabisco and all of these companies — Ford — we’re going to build here. We’re going to keep the jobs in our country.”