Political Insider

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Jim Barksdale launches 'black and brown' listening tour in campaign reboot

Democrat Jim Barksdale embarked on a statewide tour this week to meet with black and Latino voters, with plans to hold roundtables on voting rights issues and visits to barbershops and beauty salons. His campaign calls it the "Black & Brown Listening Tour."

“We need leadership in Washington that represents the new Georgia, not the Georgia of yesterday," Barksdale said in a statement. "Despite increasing diversity in our state, the priorities and concerns of Georgia's communities of color do not have a committed advocate in the U.S. Senate."

The tour, which launched in Albany, includes visits with the NAACP and the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, discussions on immigration policy and criminal justice initiatives. It's part of a broader reboot of Barksdale's campaign, which lags behind Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson in the polls and has suffered from defections of high-profile Democratic leaders.

After purging his campaign staff last month, Barksdale hired new aides this month, including several veterans of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders presidential run. They aim to more aggressively tie Isakson to Donald Trump and to drive up support from core Democratic voters, many of whom tell pollsters they don't know much about the candidate.

And the listening tour is the latest attempt by the investment manager, who was little-known even in political circles before entering the race in March, to connect with the party's base. Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, one of Barksdale's top Democratic supporters, said it was refreshing that the candidate is "willing to listen, learn and generally engage in an effort to understand our community's perspective."

Here's a peak at his plans:

  • Voting Rights: Roundtables with elected officials, ministers, and community leaders on the importance of voting rights and the need to extend today's voter registration deadline due to the impact of Hurricane Matthew on the Georgia Coast, Albany and Americus
  • Immigration Reform: Meeting with immigration attorneys and young people affected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), Norcross
  • Criminal Justice: Roundtable with community leaders in Coweta County to discuss prison reform and reducing recidivism during re-entry to society, Newnan
  • Economic Justice: Visiting Minority and Women Owned Businesses (MWOBs)  including Barbershops and Beauty Shops to discuss improving infrastructure, investments, and economic opportunity for small businesses, Atlanta
  • Educational Equity:  Panel discussion hosted by the local NAACP, in which Jim will discuss investing in urban school districts and under-performing schools rather than letting schools fall into the Opportunity School Districts, Decatur
  • Community Organizing and Civic Participation: Meeting with African American and Latino faith leaders to discuss the Salem Initiative, a civic partnership between an African-American and Latino church, at Salem Missionary Baptist Church, Liliburn
  • Supporting HBCUs: Touring Albany State and visits with HBCU students displaced by Hurricane Matthew to discuss the infrastructure and finance needs of their campuses at Fort Valley State, Albany and Fort Valley

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.