Courting Black Support, Booker and Harris Pitch Differing Economic Plans

Ms. Harris’s campaign has also raised eyebrows for a reluctance to engage presidential forums related to black voters.

Ms. Harris, for instance, has yet to agree to attend the Black Economic Alliance’s presidential forum on black wealth in South Carolina, though Mr. Booker and other presidential contenders have said yes. She The People, the black women’s advocacy group that hosted a presidential forum in Houston last week, announced a lineup that originally included almost every top presidential candidate besides Ms. Harris. “You have to ask her campaign,” said the group’s founder, Aimee Allison, when asked about the absence.

Ms. Harris later reversed her decision and participated in the event.

Mr. Booker, who has spent years cultivating support from influential black leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton, has also been reaching out to black pastors and the faith community. In South Carolina he has visited six churches since announcing his candidacy, and he spoke at the National Baptist Convention winter meeting last year.

Both campaigns are also counting on deep relationships within the Congressional Black Caucus, where they are the only two members who are senators. Though Mr. Booker has been a more frequent presence at the group’s Wednesday lunches, according to two former congressional aides, both candidates have been active in the caucus, and are counting on eventual support. So far, only members from each candidate’s home state have offered direct endorsements.

In South Carolina, the choice facing black voters was evident at a town hall held by Mr. Booker in Denmark, a small rural town not often visited by candidates.

Benjamin Jones, 69, said he liked both candidates and was looking to hear about policies that would address racial inequalities, particularly in criminal justice reform.

“I’m still shopping around,” Mr. Jones said after the two-plus hour speech, panel and town-hall event. “But, I think a lot of black people want to know, like Janet Jackson says, ‘What have you done for me lately?’”

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