If Democrats want the support of African-American voters, the key is not just words but actions, said Anne Holton, wife of Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, during a Wednesday campaign stop in Boston.
“So many folks from minority communities have plenty of opportunities to know what it’s like to be the odd man out, so to speak, but folks in the majority community don’t always have that experience,” she said, after hosting a roundtable on women’s issues at Suffolk University Law School. “We’ve sought some of those out, and we’ve also been gifted with some of those opportunities in Virginia. So we get it.”
Holton’s father, the Republican governor of Virginia in the early 1970s, enrolled her in Richmond’s predominately black school system when federal courts ordered desegregation. She and Kaine sent their three children to those same schools.
Her comments come as Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, continues his efforts to woo voters of color. Trump traveled Wednesday to Mexico to meet with the President Enrique Peña Nieto ahead of a major immigration speech he was scheduled to deliver in Phoenix.
“I’m not going to talk about the other side,” Holton said of Trump. “You can ask my husband about that. I’m just not going to do it.”
Trump’s outreach efforts have largely been seen by activists as too little, too late, as the candidate has vilified Mexican and Muslim immigrants since the start of his campaign. And his most recent pitch to black and Latino voters — in which Trumps asks, “What do you have to lose?” — often follows a vivid description of their “war zone” communities.
Kaine served as mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia and is now a first-term US senator from the state. Celebrating the country’s diversity, Holton said, is “part of my DNA and really my husband’s DNA.” The two met as Harvard Law School students.
Holton’s visit to Boston was part of an on-going campaign tour of the country stumping for her husband’s ticket with the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton. On Thursday, she and Kaine are scheduled to campaign in New Hampshire.
Wednesday’s roundtable focused on the issues women face — everything from pay equity to child care to entrepreneurship to getting more women involved in politics and galvanizing female voters. Joining Holton on the panel were some of Boston’s most prominent female politicians, including Boston City Council president Michelle Wu, City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, and state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry.
Holton later visited the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s downtown offices, where about a dozen volunteers, some as young as 9, made calls to voters.
It was Joie Liu’s “third or fourth” time phone banking for Clinton.
“My mom usually comes but she has to work,” the 11-year-old said in between calls. She was there with her best friend, Hannah Whited, and Hannah’s mother.
“We have some of the youngest volunteers I’ve seen,” Holton, 58, joked.
A lawyer and former juvenile court judge, Holton was Virginia’s secretary of education until last month. She resigned when Kaine was tapped to be Clinton’s running mate.
“The one thing Hillary has already asked me to do is listen to teachers and parents and students and help get ideas to bring back to Washington about how we can elevate and modernize the teaching profession and make our schools work for kids in every single zip code,” Holton told reporters.Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.