Nina Turner

Nina Turner, co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign, during a Nov. 3 rally at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. 

In the race to see who will faceoff against President Donald Trump in 2020 (provided he is not impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate) Democratic voters are narrowing down their choices. 

The still crowded Democratic field lost another contender with Beto O’Rourke dropping out on the first day of this month. At the top, the three names that have remained steadfast are the ones that have been most familiar to voters over the past 12 years or so – former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). What could be the ultimate determining factor as to who prevails is who carries the Black vote. 

Sanders is making his case; and he’s doing so with the help of his national campaign co-chair, former Ohio state senator, Nina Turner. 

Turner, who served in the Ohio Senate from 2008-2014, has been affiliated with Sanders since 2016 when she endorsed him for president after first endorsing former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. As Sanders’ national co-chair, Turner’s job is to help in turning out every vote, which means also spreading their message that Sanders is the best candidate to represent the interests of Black voters. Right now, former vice president Joe Biden is polling best among likely Black voters – due largely to older voters. Turner said that has to do less about policy, and more about proximity. 

“Let’s face it, a lot of older African-American voters are weighing the former vice president in proximity to the nation’s first Black president (Barack Obama),” said Turner in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Insight News prior to Sanders’ Nov. 3 rally at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota. “What I would challenge older Black voters to do is not look at the proximity to the first Black president and look at one’s vision in this particular moment to lift all people; and I would surmise that when you have someone talking about cancelling all student debt … something African-American, particularly African-American women who are weighed down by that debt are concerned about… that is something older African-Americans should pay attention to and say, ‘Yes, Sen. Bernie Sanders is the right person for me, and also for my children and grandchildren.” 

Turner said Sanders’ call for healthcare as a right for all Americans should also speak directly to the Black voter. 

“When you look at health disparities of African-American women, we still die at higher rates than white women in this country – even in the 21st century – during childbirth. Our Black babies die at higher rates,” said Turner. “So, when you have somebody saying we need universal healthcare in this country, that is speaking to the needs of African-American people.” 

Turner also addressed Sanders’ stance on reparations for descendants of slaves, saying the senator is in favor of a House bill championed by the late Rep. John Conyers and sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) that establishes the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. The bill, introduced the first day of session this year, has yet to be brought to the full House for a vote and received its first subcommittee hearing June 19 – a date symbolic to African-Americans, as it is said to be the date in 1865 when the last slaves in Galveston, Texas were notified of their freedom. 

Sanders’ national campaign co-chair said the candidate’s stances on the issue of marijuana reform should also resonate with Black voters. Turner said Sanders is calling for federal legalization of marijuana and the expungement of records for nonviolent marijuana convictions.

“We’re not just going to wait on the passage of HR-40 (the bill on reparations), we’re working on so many other things. And it goes without saying, this country owes a great debt to slaves and their descendants. America would not be the America that it is today without the fruits of free labor of our ancestors who were brought to this country in shackles and chains,” said Turner. 

In the interview Turner said Trump is the “worst president in American history” calling him racist, xenophobic, homophobic and misogynistic – claims that the candidate also made during his more than hour-long speech inside Williams. She said that’s why it is important for voters – Blacks voters in particular – to pay close attention when choosing who will go up against Trump in 2020. 

“Sen. Sanders was asked about a month ago in Atlanta, ‘What are you going to do about white supremacy’ and (Sanders) said, ‘We’re going to war against white supremacy … we’re going to war against white supremacy in America,” said Turner. 

Turner also pointed to Sanders’ staff and commitment to buy advertising with Black media as evidence of the Vermont senator’s devotion to the needs of the African-American community. Sanders’ deputy campaign director, Renee Spellman, is Black, as is his national press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray. This past June Sanders spoke at the National Newspapers Publishers Association (Black Press) annual convention. He was the only presidential candidate to do so. 

Sanders’ efforts to attract Black voters will most likely come into play Feb. 29 when the South Carolina primary takes place. The preceding primaries – Iowa and New Hampshire – have Black populations of 3.42 percent and 1.4 respectively.

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