'Obama Supporters For Brown' Work To Court Black Vote

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With Election Day just over a week away, Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren continue to work hard for votes. Both campaigns are seeking to win over voters from minority communities.

A New Strategy 

When Brown arrived for a campaign event in Watertown Wednesday one man in his entourage stood out: he was wearing a T-shirt that read: "Obama supporters for Brown."

Black men wearing these shirts showed up in Dudley Square last week passing out Brown campaign literature.

"So, you guys are supporting Scott Brown?" I asked.

"No comment," one of them responded. "We're just campaigning for Scott Brown."

The man said he's unemployed now but normally works for a building supply company. He wouldn't give his name, but referred me to a campaign office on Blue Hill Avenue in Grove Hall.

There Robert Lewis, who says he supported Brown in the 2010 election, is running the newly opened "Obama supporters for Brown" office. He says they're not always well received.

"I've heard... I can't even repeat half the stuff," Lewis said. "But we've got thick skin and we believe in what we're doing."

Lewis says some of those passing out Brown campaign flyers are being paid a stipend to cover transportation, food and other costs, such as babysitting. Others, he says, are volunteers.

The outreach effort comes after Brown's Democratic challenger gained some key support.

Warren and Brown had been invited to a forum supported by a wide range of organizations representing people of color and nonprofit organizations in Boston. Warren attended but Brown declined, says Juan Cofield, president of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, one of the sponsors of the forum.

"We saw it as an opportunity for them both to introduce themselves to the community and to talk about policy issues in general and in particular that would have a greater impact on communities of color," Cofield said. "And as we saw it, that just was not important to him."

Earlier this month, several prominent church leaders gave their personal blessing to Elizabeth Warren. Among them was the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, head of the Boston TenPoint Coalition.

"We want to make clear this is not anti-Scott Brown, this is a pro-Elizabeth Warren gathering," Rev. Brown said.

The Rev. Eugene Rivers also endorsed Warren. He says he and some of his fellow ministers had been leaning toward Brown, but the senator's failure to "tangibly communicate that black voters were a priority" tipped them toward Warren.

"We're here standing with Elizabeth Warren because she is going to invest time, talent and energy in helping address the issues that are important to us," Rev. Rivers said.

On Wednesday, when asked about the minority forum and the ministers' endorsement Brown said:

I don't know what event you're referring to. I'll have to check with my staff. I've been working on issues affecting the black community since my days as state senator, working on the Metco Program. I'm very content with what I've been doing in the minority community and will continue to work regardless of their endorsement.

Brown supporter Robert Lewis says the early campaign missteps are in the past.

"Well, that was in the beginning," he said. "We were just at Grace Church last weekend, we've done a number of events in the last couple of weeks."

Over the past few months, Elizabeth Warren has visited Grace Church and several others in the Boston area. Lewis says the "Obama supporters for Brown" campaign is also looking beyond Boston and has offices in Springfield and Fall River.

This program aired on October 25, 2012.

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Delores Handy Reporter
Delores Handy was formerly a host and reporter at WBUR.



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