A Missouri Democratic state representative said during a town hall on Saturday that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) could not take black voters for granted in her reelection bid this year.
State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D.) warned McCaskill that her efforts to win over rural white voters shouldn't come at the expense of Missouri's black and minority communities, the St. Louis American, a newspaper primarily serving the African American community of the greater St. Louis area, reported.
Franks, who came to prominence as a community activist in the wake of the Ferguson riots, was asked by a constituent what he was doing to mobilize and engage black voters to turn out for Democrats, like McCaskill, who are on the ballot in 2018.
"We say that we want folks to engage and they have to exercise their right to vote and it’s their fault if they don’t vote. But in getting out the vote, they have to have something or someone to vote for. It’s not just enough to say to go vote for somebody or a particular proposition," Franks said. "Sometimes they feel like they don’t have a choice because neither candidate speaks to the needs of their community."
The constituent, a middle-aged white woman, pressed Franks on the importance of the 2018 election cycle, especially in regards to ensuring McCaskill is reelected.
"We have a potential tragedy in Missouri. We could lose a Senate seat … McCaskill could lose. She may not be speaking to folks, but we have an opportunity to lose an important seat in the Senate. How can we get folks out to vote for that, understanding that it’s touchy?" the constituent asked.
"As a black man in a poor black community, how would you express to me the need to vote for Claire McCaskill?" Franks responded.
The constituent couldn't respond adequately, admitting it was "a good question" before launching into a diatribe against Missouri's senior Sen. Roy Blunt (R.). The constituent claimed Missourians were getting "a lot less" from him than McCaskill.
Franks pushed back on the assertion, praising Blunt's efforts to secure appropriation funding for a community program that provides low-income youth with educational and vocational opportunities.
"One thing I can tell you about Roy Blunt is … He appropriates the federal funding that comes down that funds Youth Build," Franks said. "One place Senator Blunt has always fought for and made sure we had funding was Youth Build in St. Louis."
Another woman in the audience called the appropriations "crumbs."
"When I’m saving young black lives every day, we can’t consider that crumbs. That’s a whole loaf. What happens is, now we are talking about folks who, chances are, are having trouble voting for Claire. So her votes on the good stuff, those are crumbs. Her rhetoric, those are crumbs," Franks said. "But when we have tangible things that we are seeing each and every day that are saving young people’s lives, who had no hope, who come from a disenfranchised community, we can’t consider that crumbs."
At the end of the forum, Franks reiterated the need for McCaskill to "show up" and make the case for why she deserves to be reelected.
"She’s going to have to show up, and it’s not just about talking," Franks said. "You have made some folks upset and if there is a reason why you voted this way, then you need to effectively communicate that."