In an exclusive conversation with The Root, the mayor of America’s third-blackest city announced his endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden for President of the United States, explaining how he came to his decision, why the election is not just a referendum on Trump and why he rejects the notion that “moderate” Democratic candidates are bad for the party.
Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Randall Woodfin’s attempt to marry forward-thinking, out-of-the-box ideas with the moderate, practicality of the Democratic Party made him a young star on the political scene after he won his city’s mayoral race in 2017. Since taking office, Woodfin has implemented a number of progressive reforms, including plans to pardon marijuana offenses and free college tuition for every high school graduate in the 71 percent black city.
In October, Woodfin and fellow mayors Steve Benjamin (Columbia, S.C.); LaToya Cantrell (New Orleans) and Chokwe Lumumba (Jackson, Miss.) published an open letter to all of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, informing them that black voters in the South should be front and center in the 2020 presidential elections.
“We wanted them to know that speaking to our issues and concerns is not some perfunctory thing to do,” Woodfin told The Root on Sunday. “Especially since, when it comes to the demographics of the South, [black voters] pretty much make up the base of the party. Many of the candidates reached out, but Vice President Joe Biden took it a step further.”
Biden convened a private listening session in Atlanta with the letter’s signatories, as well as other mayors and political leaders from across the South. During the meeting, which reportedly took place in Biden’s dressing room before a political appearance, Biden listened to ideas, answered questions and laid out the political agenda for his potential presidency. Woodfin noted that he was impressed by the diversity of perspectives and attendees at the forum.
“What I remember most about the meeting was that there were probably five mayors under 40, male and female,” said Woodfin. “I personally left the meeting excited. I knew he had a commitment to the issues we raised and viewed mayors as real partners—not just in his candidacy—but, should he win, I believe he would do the same in Washington as well.”
But it wasn’t just one meeting that convinced Woodfin to endorse the former Vice President. The 38-year-old stressed the importance of expanding the political map in the 2020 elections beyond traditionally blue states. Biden, in Woodfin’s estimation, stands the best chance of helping down-ballot candidates in Senate, House and gubernatorial races much like Barack Obama did during his two campaigns for president.
When asked how he could endorse an older, white moderate in a field full of more diverse, progressive and younger candidates, Woodfin explained that being a moderate is not necessarily a bad thing.
“I feel like [Biden] is the bridge between the future of the Democratic party and the most successful Democratic administration in our lifetimes,” explained Woodfin. “You can’t throw that out of the window. That bridge is important.”
“Being a moderate does not equal status quo,” the mayor added. “I 100 percent reject anyone who believes that. I support a lot of things on the left but—if I’m being real—I also believe you gotta win.
“When you think about the Republican Party, the base of their party is the far right. The base of the Democratic party is the center. Those moderates—African Americans over 60, who we should all listen to—are also the ones who turn out and vote. They’re the ones who vote in midterms and support local races. So I reject the notion that being a moderate means status quo.”
Woodfin was careful to note that his endorsement was not an indictment of any other candidate, and pledged to support whoever emerged from the primaries with the Democratic nomination.
Aside from Woodfin, Alabama State Representative Juandalynn Givan and U.S. Senator Doug Jones also endorsed Biden this weekend.
O.G. Corn Pop of the Wilmington Romans has not issued an official endorsement.