Black voter group pushes a grassroots surge to help Democrats flip the House and Senate this fall

  • The Color of Change political action committee, which boasts the financial support of prolific liberal donors such as George Soros, is training thousands of volunteers to convince unregistered voters that their votes this fall could help the black community.
  • "What we are essentially doing is building a grassroots army of black leaders who are going to be doing large-scale black voter engagement," said Arisha Hatch, director of the organization.
  • Hatch says the group believes the only way to see its political goals reflected in Congress is to remove Republicans from power and to replace them with candidates who will act as a check on President Donald Trump.
The Capitol building in Washington, DC.
Aaron P. Bernstein | Reuters
The Capitol building in Washington, DC.

A political action committee that pushes black voter turnout, and helped Democrats flip a U.S. Senate seat in deep-red Alabama, is looking to build on that success in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

The Color of Change political action committee, which boasts the financial support of high-profile liberal donors such as George Soros, is training thousands of volunteers to convince unregistered voters and other people who don't usually turn out for elections that their votes this fall could help the black community.

"What we are essentially doing is building a grassroots army of black leaders who are going to be doing large scale black voter engagement," said Arisha Hatch, director of the organization and a 2008 alum of then-candidate Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The volunteers will be working the phones and knocking on doors to have what she describes as a "peer to peer" conversation about the need for their vote.

Although the PAC is not directly affiliated with a political party, Hatch says the group believes the only way to see its political goals reflected in Congress is to remove Republicans from power and to replace them with candidates who will act as a check on President Donald Trump.

Big agenda, big money

While the PAC has not settled on specific candidates to back in November, it is looking for candidates who will support affordable health-care initiatives, increased funding for public education, reducing the black incarceration rate and refining police standards. It is also joining the ranks of other groups calling for lawmakers to join them in their fight against alleged voter suppression and reforming the country's bail system.

The Color of Change PAC agenda mirrors the ideologies expressed by some of the group's progressive donors. Billionaire Soros has given the group $50,000, while Onward Together, a group founded by 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, has donated $100,000, according to Federal Election Commission records. Other prominent supporters include Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, who has donated $200,000.

The PAC has spent $2.5 million so far during the 2018 election cycle, according to FEC records, and had $1.2 million on hand as of July.

Most of the group's spending has gone toward digital advertising in various special elections, including last year's battle between Republican former Alabama Judge Roy Moore and Democratic newcomer Doug Jones for the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The PAC spent thousands against Moore, who was accused by several women of sexual assault and misconduct decades ago. The group also spent money on digital ads to support Jones, went on to win the special election in December, making him the first Democrat to hold an Alabama U.S. Senate seat in 25 years.

The PAC is looking to swing Republican-held districts in Florida, Michigan, Nevada and California. While California and Nevada voted against Trump, there are six GOP seats that are considered vulnerable throughout the two states.

It also hopes to have volunteers to go door to door in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won each of these states in the 2016 presidential election.

"There is a real recognition from the Color of Change PAC, that in order for things to change it would mean flipping the House, shifting the dichotomy in the Senate and putting people in place who will serve as a check to the Trump administration," Hatch said.

Republicans vulnerable in swing states

Recent surveys show signs of trouble for the GOP in Midwestern states that are on the Color of Change PAC's target list.

An NBC News poll released Wednesday shows that Michigan along with Wisconsin are leaning toward the Democrats.

If the election were held today, Michigan voters said they would choose a Democrat over a Republican by a 49-to-36 percent margin. In Wisconsin, 51 percent prefer the minority party over the GOP.

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Democrats continuing to gain traction in the House of Representatives with 51 percent favoring the party led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The Real Clear Politics generic congressional average poll does not bode well for Republicans as it shows them down by 8 points.

Trump's approvals have also been wavering. Another Quinnipiac poll show the president's approval at 38 percent, while 58 percent are displeased with his job performance. His Real Clear Politics average shows him with a 52 percent disapproval.

"We want to put people in place who will not enable and will serve as a check on the Trump administration," Hatch said. "They have been using dog whistle politics to encourage their base. It is making our culture more hostile and those are some of the additional things we will be touching on this year," she added.