Top Democrats woo Black voters in Virginia governor's race

Voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams was in Norfolk, Virginia, on Sunday to urge Black churchgoers to turn out for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in next month’s Virginia governor’s election

Abrams has become a leading national voice in the party since narrowly losing the 2018 race for governor in Georgia. With her appearances at three churches in Norfolk, Abrams is joining other political heavyweights in trying to ensure that a state trending increasingly Democratic in recent years does not flip back to the Republican column on Nov. 2.

McAuliffe, governor from 2014 to 2018 and a former Democratic National Committee chairman, visited separate churches and later led a rally with Abrams outside an early voting station. “We gotta get everybody out to vote,” he said.

His Republican opponent, former business executive Glenn Youngkin, held a series of weekend events, including rallying Latino voters in the Washington suburbs.

“I am the daughter of not one, but two pastors,” said Abrams, who like all attendees entering Second Calvary Baptist Church showed a card indicating that she was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The pastor, Geoffrey Guns, wore a black T-shirt emblazoned with “VOTE” and told the congregation that what's “coming up is a very important election.” He repeated the phrase to louder applause and cries of ”Amen."

Youngkin has largely shied away from outside Republican stalwarts, hoping to attract independents disillusioned by Trump. Youngkin also has not campaigned personally with Trump, though the former president phoned into a Virginia rally last week featuring Steve Bannon, a longtime Trump strategist.

Abrams told the congregations that in McAuliffe's first term as governor, he increased funding for education and ensured that tens of thousands of former felons and others who had been removed from voter rolls had their right to the ballot box restored.

"I know you get tired of being called a bellwether state but I’m going to tell you — as someone from one of those newly purplish states — we’ve got to look to you for wisdom,” she said, referring to once reliably Republican Georgia backing Biden and two Democratic senators last cycle.

During a subsequent stop, Abrams appealed to her audience: “What you say in 2021 will show the world who we are in 2022 and 2024 and beyond.”

At Faith Deliverance Christian Center, where congregants gathered in a gymnasium, the pastor, Sharon Riley, thanked Abrams for not being elected Georgia governor because “we now see that God had a plan” and that Abrams' work since in defense of voting rights has made her one of the “most significant” people in the nation.

Abrams said when she first began running for office, she felt mixing politics and church was bad. But, she said, her mother eventually reminded her that “politics is always in the church” and her father said that the Bible “is one of the most intense political texts ever written.”

“Voting is an act of faith,” Abrams said. “I need you to do the job.”

——— This story has been updated to correct that last week’s Trump Virginia rally featured Steve Bannon rather than being organized by him and to remove reference to Youngkin calling into that rally.