Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, who represents District 53 in Madison County, said that the Democratic Party should focus more on Black women.
“If you focus on African American women you will bring along the men,” Daniels told NBC News on Wednesday. “The key factor is African American women are influencers in our communities and in our households. And as men, we listen to our wives and we listen to our daughters.”
In the Alabama Senate special election on Tuesday, statewide, 98 percent of Black women voted for Democratic candidate Doug Jones, as did 93 percent of Black men. As a whole, 96 percent of Black voters supported Jones, ushering him to a victory against scandal-ridden Republican candidate Roy Moore.
Black voters turned out at a higher percentage than in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, taking a stand preventing Roy Moore’s retro racism to represent their state.
In February, Daniels, 34, made history as the first Black person, and youngest person, to be named Alabama House Minority leader. He names a Black woman as one of his mentors — Alabama State Rep. Laura Hall, a Democrat.
Hall represents District 19 in Madison County, one of four major urban counties, home to Huntsville as well as a large NASA facility. On Tuesday, Jones received 57 percent of the vote in the usually GOP-leaning county. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump won Madison by nearly 54 percent.
Hall talked with DiversityInc on Wednesday about the grassroots movements in Madison County that were key in mobilizing residents to vote for Jones.
She said the movement was first invigorated by last month’s elections in Virginia and New Jersey, when Black voters helped Democrats win in special elections.
“I said, we ought to do that in Alabama and certainly there were other people thinking the same way,” Hall said. “That election night probably just increased the motivation for what had already started.”
In Madison County, Hall said the Democratic Party had seen an increase in attendance at meetings and activities since last November, correlating with the 2016 presidential election.
When Trump announced he would nominate then Alabama Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to the post of U.S. Attorney General, the focus of Democratic organizers then turned to the special senate race.
“Phone calls and canvassing had been going on I’d say probably since the first of the year in Madison County,” Hall said. “That process was started locally without any group or organization coming in.”
When it was determined Jones would face off with Moore for the senate seat, Hall said the process that was already in place “just kind of snowballed.”
For Black voters, the racist rhetoric and allegations surrounding Moore “was major,” Hall said.
The watchdog journalism — such as The Washington Post’s report on Moore allegedly having sexual contact with underage girls, the Los Angeles Times reporting his outlandish statements on slavery at a rally, and CNN revealing audio of a radio interview when he said getting rid of Constitutional amendments after the 10th would “eliminate problems” — made Blacks aware that the stakes were high in this election.
“Doug Jones was in Huntsville quite a few times,” Hall said. “We had two events where he was directly in our community. And members of the community had an opportunity to hear his message.”
The hashtag #WeVote was used in Madison County to encourage people to get to the polls. Rallies, canvassing and phone calls were all utilized extensively in the month prior to the election, with an even greater push in the last two weeks, Hall said.
A graduate of Ohio State University who retired after a 33-year career in education, Hall talked about her experience when going to vote on Tuesday.
“I had people meeting me at the polls yesterday morning at 8:30 a.m.,” she said.
“My grandson got there before I did. When I arrived I was number 43 out of 91 people that were standing in line at that particular time. People were just saying, ‘We can’t let this man win.’ Roy Moore was a major factor.”
Hall also jokingly said that a major factor in getting Jones into office was to avoid chastising calls from friends who live across the country.
“I had enough of those calls,” she said. “So today, I welcomed their congratulatory phone calls.”
Hall said that Black people in Alabama as a whole showed up to the polls to make a difference.
“I’m never going to take anything away from Black women because I am a Black woman,” she explained. “But when you look at the results, when you look at the Black male vote. It’s not a bad turnout.”
Now that Jones has been elected, Hall said Jones must keep the work done on his behalf in perspective.
“Number one, never forget how he got to where he is today,” she said.
Hall added, “And I think those of us who helped to get him elected, we help him to remember, but also realize that he has to represent all of Alabama.”