By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA News Wire Contributor
As the presidential candidates sprint towards the Nov. 8 election, the Clinton campaign has turned to seasoned, black political strategists to boost voter turnout in the African American community.
Last month, the Clinton campaign hired Nadia Garnett to lead strategic efforts as the African-American Vote Director.
“We have a theory,” Garnett said. “You have to meet people where they are. Where they eat, where they play and pray. We want to make sure that the African-American community understands the secretary’s commitment and I don’t think people fully understand her story.”
Garnett has displayed her skills in ways that few have. In addition to serving as national political director for the Center for Community Change, Garnett was also special advisor in the Office of Presidential Personnel at The White House.
She also served as eastern state director for The Atlas Project, a political research and data firm that works with electoral and issue advocacy campaigns. There, she coordinated campaign staffers, political consultants, and state experts regarding their role in developing, managing and executing campaign plans in presidential election years, according to her bio.
Clinton’s community outreach continues as she makes an appearance this week at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in Washington, D.C.
NBC BLK reported that Tamia Booker will serve as the director of African-American outreach and Zina Pierre will work with pastors and black churches as the campaign’s African-American faith director. The Clinton campaign tapped Joel Payne for the director of African-American Paid media position and LaDavia Drane will act as the campaign’s U.S. congressional liason.
Marlon Marshall, who serves as director of state campaigns and political engagement for Clinton, is as seasoned as any individual in any political camp.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of this and I’m proud of our team,” said Marshall, 36. “Thirty-seven percent of our team out there in the states are people of color. We work hard to hire people who look like us.”
The St. Louis-born resident possesses a broad portfolio that includes helping the campaigns of John Kerry and now presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Marshall’s colleague, Garnett is also far from a political novice.
Garnett has worked with pollster Cornell Belcher at his Washington, D.C.-based Brilliant Corners and Garnett once served as a field director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Independent Expenditure.
Together, the new hires could be viewed as the face of the Clinton campaign in the black community. But, they also do much more in trying to help the former First Lady and Secretary of State become the nation’s first woman president.
They are Clinton’s eyes and ears and they lead her efforts to make sure her message is known in every state, including where the assumption is that the GOP will ultimately carry that particular territory.
As Kerry’s southern political director, Garnett also helped to establish and strengthen political relationships with Democratic National Committee members, Congress, state and local elected officials and grassroots activists in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Virginia.
Once a key White House aide, Marshall has remained the highest-ranking African-American staffer on any presidential campaign. He organized for John Kerry in 2004, joined Clinton’s campaign in 2007, and then worked on both of Barack Obama’s campaigns.
The St. Louis native also served as the national field director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – the first black person to hold that role.
Marshall joined the White House staff in September 2013.
In a Nov. 2015 CNN profile, several Clinton aides credited Marshall with helping to create a diverse campaign team at the state and upper staff level.
Plugged in staffers have helped Marshall to make sure the campaign is tuned in with what people are talking about.
When, for instance, video surfaced of a black high school student getting yanked from her chair by a school resource officer in South Carolina, a digital staffer flagged the incident and Marshall coordinated the campaign response.
One of his most important tasks is helping the Clinton campaign navigate a cultural and political terrain that includes a new civil rights movement, viral racial incidents and the waning tenure of the nation’s first black president.
“I do feel that our message is getting across, especially given that a first-time candidate like [presumptive GOP presidential nominee] Donald Trump is getting so much media attention,” Marshall said. “Trump is temperamentally unfit and he’s divisive. Trump is out for himself and he’s not who Americans want as president of the United States.”
Both Marshall and Garnett said Clinton believes in developing and maintaining a strong economy for all Americans and working with U.S. allies.
When noting Trump’s slogan of “Making America Great Again,” Marshall said it’s just talk.
“Secretary Clinton believes in working together,” he said. “Trump has catchphrases, but he’s unfit and he will not succeed.”
Marshall continued: “She’s fighting to bring back jobs and what’s also important to her, obviously with the horrible things that have with the [police shootings], there’s a huge need for criminal justice reform.”
In part, Clinton wants resources for training police officers. She also has a global view of the future and what needs to be done, he said.
“One reason I’m excited about her is that she gets it,” Marshall said.
It’s also important to recognize that Clinton has previously been elected to office and knows the ins-and-outs of politics and the needs of American citizens, Garnett said.
Garnett added: “You don’t need someone who doesn’t understand these things.”
The Birmingham Times is a member of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.