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Hillary Clinton Can't Afford To Take Black Voters For Granted

State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati.
State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati.
State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati.
Credit Howard Wilkinson / WVXU
State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati.

PHILADELPHIA – As a vice chair of the Democratic National Convention here this week, State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati has had an inside view of how a mammoth operation like this works.

It has been an enlightening experience, she said, "but I'm much more concerned about what happens after this is all over and we go home."

Reece, who is president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, a 13-member organization of state legislators, said the divisions between the Hillary Clinton forces and the Bernie Sanders supporters can be healed, "but there's a much more dangerous fight ahead – the fight against Donald Trump."

What worries her is how the Clinton campaign is going to reach out to the nearly 100,000 new voters in Ohio – most of them African-Americans – who came out and voted for the first time in 2008 because they wanted to be a part of history in electing the first African-American president.

"This group has not been energized yet," Reece told WVXU in an interview after Thursday's Ohio delegation breakfast.

"Without this non-traditional group of voters coming out, in Ohio and around the country, Barack Obama would never have been president," Reece said. The Clinton campaign will have to confront this question – will these people get out and go to the polls in an election where Barack Obama's name is not on the ballot?"

The contest in Ohio, Reece said, is likely to be close; and Clinton is going to need every vote she can get. That, Reece said, "means driving out the turnout in the African-American community to 60, 70 or even 80 percent."

Clinton, in her acceptance speech Thursday night, has an opportunity to begin that process of winning over the Obama voters, Reece said, by talking about issues important to them like job creation, voting rights and criminal justice reform.

Her own organization of black legislators, Reece said, will have a critical role to play into going into urban areas of the state where African-Americans are the majority and "motivate them."

"We have to go out and be the Barack Obamas in our districts," said Reece.

"This is going to be one of the nastiest fights we have seen in decades," Reece said. "We have an opponent who will throw everything but the kitchen sink at Hillary."

She said the GOP went to school on the Obama campaign and will target black voters.

"They think that if they get 10 percent of the African-American vote, it would make the difference," Reece said. "The base is not locked up now. We have to go home and make sure that it is."

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