RICHMOND | Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates are working overtime to appeal to black voters, an influential voting bloc who helped win Barack Obama the presidency but are shown in polls as not being excited to vote this year.
The two gubernatorial candidates came to address the NAACP’s 74th annual state convention in Richmond on Friday night after a gospel choir performance. But only a few more than 100 people stayed to hear Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert F. McDonnell speak, a lack of interest that has been repeatedly documented in polls.
The majority of black voters identify themselves as Democrats, which means overcoming that kind of apathy is particularly important for Mr. Deeds.
The latest poll, released Oct. 21 by the nonpartisan Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C., showed that only 68 percent of blacks support Mr. Deeds and only 41 percent were “very excited” about the upcoming election.
In a poll by the same company taken between Oct. 21-23 last year, Mr. Obama had 88 percent of blacks supporting him. The question of excitement about the election wasn’t asked.
At that time, blacks, who make up about 20 percent of the state’s population, represented 30 percent of newly registered voters.
A lack of excitement in the polls isn’t the entire story. Those queried by pollsters tend to be likely voters, which translates into people with a history of voting in multiple elections. It won’t be known until Election Day how many of last year’s first-time voters will turn out this year.
In Richmond, those convention attendees who spoke to The Washington Times said they are motivated voters, who mostly identified themselves as Democrats.
Ruth K. Thierry, 73, who lives in Richmond, said, “I wouldn’t dare let the time go by and not vote.”
The president of her residents’ association, Ms. Thierry said she helps educate her neighbors about the election, but as a member of the Democratic Party she said it’s rather obvious for whom she will cast her vote.
Mr. Deeds clearly had his rock-star moment at the convention as people stopped him in the hallways and paused to take pictures. During his speaking time, the audience gave him the longest sustained applause.
Galen Harris, a 58-year-old retired postal worker who lives in Chesterfield, just seven miles from Richmond, stopped Mr. Deeds in the hallway to offer his support.
The self-described Democrat, who contributed to President Obama’s campaign, said he supports Mr. Deeds enthusiastically.
And he added that everyone he speaks to is supporting the Virginia Democrat as well.
“This election is a historic election, too,” he said. “This election is very important because if he does win that will be strength for Mr. Obama.”