Black and Latino Groups and Leaders Want Anyone but Amy Klobuchar for Biden's Vice President

Two days before Super Tuesday, NAACP Minneapolis and Black Lives Matter activists protested Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar's rally before it began over her involvement with the murder conviction of a black teen. Klobuchar canceled the rally. The next day, unable to curry enough support nationwide, she ended her campaign for president, looked into a television camera from Dallas, and told her home state of Minnesota to support former Vice President Joe Biden.

Now Biden is formally vetting her to be his vice-presidential running mate. That doesn't sit well with minority voters. According to groups and leaders of color, including immigration activists, the selection of Klobuchar would mean Biden is taking voters of color for granted—after black voters resurrected his campaign—to prioritize Midwestern moderate white voters.

"She would be a reckless choice" said Aimee Allison, whose group She The People held a presidential forum last year at historically black Texas Southern University that Klobuchar attended. "We need women of color to be excited about a candidate and she doesn't capture our hopes and dreams."

Jessica Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said the Minnesota senator is incapable of providing what Biden needs. "The idea that Amy Klobuchar could speak to an anti-Trump vision, and what motivates his base like immigration, racism, or xenophobia is patently laughable."

Klobuchar's campaign representatives declined to respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Progressive groups are privately mulling releasing a letter making it clear their firm belief that Klobuchar should not be in the running for the vice-presidential role, Newsweek has learned. During the primary, she struggled with voters of color, receiving 3 percent from black voters and 6 percent from Latino voters in Nevada, and only 1 percent support from black voters in South Carolina. Polling firm Latino Decisions found, however, that choosing a Latina VP nominee like Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto would make Hispanics 72 percent more likely to vote for Biden. In their focus groups, Latino Decisions found that Hispanics want someone who represents an acknowledgment from the Democratic Party that it is diverse.

Accusations that Klobuchar sought stiff sentences as a prosecutor—except in the case of police shootings—have followed her within the black community, who feel she had the backs of white cops, but not theirs.

Nekima Levy Armstrong, a Minnesota civil rights attorney, who protested Klobuchar, told Newsweek she has "serious reservations" about her as vice president "given her role in the overrepresentation of people of color in our criminal justice system in Hennepin county in Minnesota" and "failure to hold law enforcement officials accountable for shooting and killing African-Americans during her time as prosecutor."

In 2002, Klobuchar prosecuted the case that put Minnesota teen Myon Burrell behind bars for life in the death of an 11-year-old black girl named Tyesha Edwards. But a year-long Associated Press investigation found major inconsistencies in the case that included no gun, DNA or fingerprints. Klobuchar asked for an independent investigation into the case in March 2020 after meeting with Burrell's family, which was supported by NAACP national president Derrick Johnson and Leslie Redmond, president of NAACP Minneapolis.

On immigration, activists feel Klobuchar was among a group of moderate Democrats that wasn't there for them during the 2018 shutdown fight. And in 2000, a judge in a welfare fraud case during Klobuchar's time as prosecutor, gave a 364-day sentence to an undocumented immigrant so he wouldn't be deported. Klobuchar's office instead lobbied for a two-day extension and the man left the country.

"Her track record tells us she's definitely missed the mark in being a champion for immigrants," said Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, who informally advised Biden's campaign on immigration last year.

And then there are the gaffes. She couldn't name the Mexican president when Telemundo asked, suggesting to some a lack of seriousness when it comes to the United States top trading partner. Klobuchar also drew criticism for an attempt at solidarity that many perceived as pandering when she told the majority Latino, immigrant and women-influential Culinary Union in Nevada that her nickname in Spanish class was Elena.

Former members of her own campaign staff acknowledged their former boss had trouble appealing to voters of color, calling it a "weakness" and a "blind spot."

"I very much like Amy but we didn't figure it out during the campaign and they clearly haven't figured it out now," one ex-campaign staffer said, who spoke anonymously to offer a frank assessment of Klobuchar.

But others who worked with Klobuchar disputed the idea that she has not been able to engage with voters of color about what impacts them, with allies pointing to 33 campaign events she held with black voters during the campaign and 17 Latino and immigration-focused events.

Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino, pointed out that Klobuchar chairs the Senate Democratic Steering Committee and the Latino Summit, which meet with Latino leaders. Voto Latino also helped gather signatures from 19 groups for Klobuchar's national vote by mail legislation, which included groups like March For Our Lives, and Michelle Obama's organization, When We All Vote.

"One thing that speaks strongly to black and brown communities is her enthusiasm and commitment to election reform," said Marina Negroponte, who was Nevada state director for Klobuchar's campaign.

Klobuchar also supported the Senate's 2013 immigration bill, which included the DREAM Act, and voted against defunding sanctuary cities in 2015. She also opposed Trump ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era executive action.

One argument for Klobuchar, repeated by her supporters, is that she's an electoral winner. That she has real Midwest appeal would help with voters who tilted Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan in Trump's favor. But there, too, black and Latino leaders said Biden isn't winning those states without the support of voters of color in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit.

Virgie Rollins, chair of the Democratic National Committee's black caucus, who is from Detroit, dismissed those concerns. She said she knows Klobuchar as a senator, and women in Michigan, including black women, love her.

"If anybody is an idiot that would decide against Biden because of who the VP pick is, we're going to have another Hillary Clinton when that man in the White House is a danger," she told Newsweek.

Still, the majority of black and brown leaders who spoke with Newsweek said there is no winning without energizing voters of color and argued Democrats repeatedly say these communities matter. But on the biggest decisions a campaign makes—on major financial investment and who is vice president—they're not deemed enough of a priority.

"It was quite notable to me when Biden announced he was going to choose a woman as vice president and a black woman for Supreme Court," Democratic donor Steve Phillips said. "The office that is more speculative, that may or may not happen, he'll be specific that it's somebody black. But the office we know he has full control over, he won't commit to a person of color."

Klobuchar biden
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden is joined on stage by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) during a campaign event on March 2, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. Klobuchar suspended her campaign and endorsed Biden before the upcoming Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primaries. Ron Jenkins/Getty Images/Getty