Mary Landrieu

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., participates in a Senate race debate with fellow candidates Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Rob Maness and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Black Conservatives Fund is placing boots on the ground in Louisiana as the U.S. Senate runoff heats up.

Last summer, the Black Conservatives Fund fought Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., trying to sway African-American support to Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

Since the runoff was projected, Ali Akbar, senior adviser to the Black Conservatives Fund’s board, said the organization has prepared for its ground invasion. Now, members of the Black Conservatives Fund are phone banking and door knocking, reaching out to the African-American community.

Since the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party has expressed its interest in reaching out to minorities.

Political parties are adapting for the nation’s shift to a majority minority population, said mass communication professor Robert Mann. He said the Republican Party needs to start a conversation with the minority population if it hopes to one day make a change.

“Parties are starting to look at the demographic changes in the country,” Mann said.

The Black Conservatives Fund is trying to spark a change in the conversation. It’s reaching out to black independent voters, expecting the black conservatives to show up to the polls on Election Day.

“What I want to do is touch those black independents who aren’t politically active and inform them of the disaster that is Mary Landrieu,” Akbar said.

Akbar said the goal is informing as many black voters as possible and preparing them for future elections.

Mann said while he expects Cassidy to win regardless of the Black Conservatives Fund’s efforts, he believes their work is necessary in the long run.

The Black Conservatives Fund will mail “controversial” cards to a targeted group this week. Akbar said the first printer refused to make the cards.

“I expect the Landrieu camp to come out on the record, and it will probably piss them off,” Akbar said.

The Black Conservatives Fund is mailing these cards to disrupt Landrieu’s voting base.

Akbar said he doesn’t expect the Black Conservatives Fund to touch all of Louisiana’s black voters, but he would like to see Cassidy perform better in the runoff election.

According to exit polls, Cassidy received 3 percent of the African-American vote while Landrieu received 94 percent. Akbar called Cassidy’s 3 percent unacceptably low.

The average percentage of African-American votes for a Republican candidate is 5 percent, Mann said.

Col. Rob Maness received 1 percent of the African-American vote; third party candidates also received 1 percent.

If you add these together, Mann said, there’s only a minuscule difference. Cassidy’s numbers are not much lower than the average, and voters cannot read into them.

Akbar said the Black Conservatives Fund is also battling the power the Landrieu name holds in the state’s African-American community.

However, Mann said Landrieu received the same percentage of black votes any strong Democratic candidate would receive, and her family’s name does not make a difference.

“In a really competitive race, Democrats tend to get 90 to 95 percent of the black vote regardless of whether their name is Landrieu or not,” Mann said.

Akbar said it’s difficult to sway black voters to Cassidy, a white male Republican. But Mann attributed this difficulty to Cassidy’s party, not his race.

Mann said black Republicans have difficulty gaining the black vote. African-Americans have monolithic voting tendencies and have decided to vote along certain party lines since the 1960s. Before, African-Americans tended to vote for Republicans because they associated Democrats with racial segregation and the Jim Crow laws.

“The Republicans were seen as the party of Lincoln that still was open to civil rights,” Mann said.

In 1964, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Mann said that was when African-Americans began to look at Democrats in a new light.

“By the ’70s, the whole landscape of the country changed. Blacks saw the Democratic Party as protecting their interests and saw the Republican Party as the party that was speaking up for white conservatives,” Mann said.

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