The Delmarva Black Chamber of Commerce wants African American voters in Delaware to make the most informed decisions possible when it comes to the General Election on Nov. 6.
If politics is about the allocation of resources, then the black community needs to be more selective in whom it selects as its representatives, Delmarva Black Chamber of Commerce President Clay Hammond said.
To that end, the chamber has scheduled it first debate for Wednesday night with candidates for Delaware's open U.S. Senate seat this election, Hammond said.
Republican Kevin Wade, Independent Party of Delaware candidate Alex Pires and Green Party candidate Andrew Groff have confirmed their participation, but Democratic incumbent Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) cannot attend due to a scheduling conflict, he said.
Carper's pending absence is disappointing, Hammond said. But that will not detract from the overall goal of the debates, he said.
"The African American community needs to understand that we don't have permanent allies, just permanent issues," Hammond said. "We're having this to help people understand where the candidates stand on the issues that are important in our community — the tremendous disparities, whether they are health, economic or educational.
"Usually, when you have a debate you have to extrapolate what's important to you out of the whole general message," he said.
When asked if the Black Chamber was advocating for a shift away from traditional, Democratic voting patterns amongst blacks, Hammond said that was not the case.
"We just need to look at what their platforms are," he said. "We're not going in with any foregone conclusions about who's better or who's best. We're just letting this be a forum in which people can make their own decisions."
For instance, gone are the days when party-backed candidates had the edge in elections, Hammond said. Individual voters nowadays look at the issues important to them, not traditional, party machine politics.
"We just want to hear how they respond to issues that relate to us," Hammond said. "We think that's the most intelligent way to do it rather than campaign literature or asking questions only to have them give the scripted answers."
Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Omega Psi Phi fraternity, the Alpha Psi Phi fraternity, the Delaware Disadvantaged Black Farmers and the NAACP are co-sponsors of the debates, Hammond and fellow organizer Bobby Wilson said. Co-sponsors were solicited to bring a wide-ranging view of the black community to the political debates, they said.
Page 2 of 2 - Hammond and Wilson, a Delmarva Black Chamber of Commerce board member, are unsure as to who will moderate Wednesday night's debate, although they have a few candidates in mind.
In the future, the Black Chamber of Commerce plans to hold debates for the U.S. House of Representatives, governor and, possibly, lieutenant governor.
"Our community is in significant need of a lot of resources," Hammond said. "Understand that the nature of government is to serve its constituents. What makes African Americans mad in this state? I mean, if your child receives a certificate of attendance after 12 years public school, wouldn't you be mad?"
All are welcome to attend, particularly since economic woes tend to be more universal in nature these days, Hammond said.