Trump to launch new black voter initiative from downtown Atlanta

President Donald Trump reacts after he was introduced during his last visit to Atlanta in April for an opioid summit. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

President Donald Trump reacts after he was introduced during his last visit to Atlanta in April for an opioid summit. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

President Donald Trump plans to use Atlanta as a launching pad for his new African American coalition with a Friday rally at the Georgia World Congress Center.

The president will kick off the Black Voices for Trump Coalition initiative at 3 p.m. Friday at the downtown Atlanta convention center after a high-dollar fundraiser in Buckhead to support U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

He's expected to highlight recent statistics that show low unemployment rates for black workers as well as an opportunity zone program tucked into the Republicans' 2017 tax-cut legislation that is designed to encourage investors to pump money into struggling areas.

Trump’s campaign picked Atlanta for his rollout because of its role as an epicenter of black life and the region’s fast-growing African American population, according to a senior White House official. Vice President Mike Pence is set to address the crowd, too.

Republicans face a daunting challenge wooing black voters in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams and other Democrats won the African American electorate by a huge margin in 2018. Exit polls showed 94% of black voters backed Abrams over Republican Brian Kemp in last year's race for governor.

The national data for Trump is grim, too. In 2016, only 8% of black voters cast their ballots for Trump and, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll, only 8% of black voters identify in some way with the Republican Party.

A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that only 4% of African Americans think Trump’s actions and policies have benefited black people.

Many of Trump’s leading African American critics point out that the president was slow to denounce white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., and he used derogatory language to refer to Haiti and countries in Africa.

Democrats will also seek to remind Trump of his past insult of Atlanta — he tweeted that the congressional district that spans the city is in "horrible shape and falling apart." That came shortly after U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, said he would boycott Trump's inauguration.

Still, while black conservatives have struggled to gain traction in Georgia, the president has trumpeted the support of several local African American leaders. They include Alveda King, a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Bruce Levell, a Dunwoody jeweler who was a leader in Trump's black outreach group in 2016.

It will be Trump's seventh trip to Georgia since his election, a spate of visits that included a November 2018 rally in Macon to promote Kemp's campaign and an April address at an opioid summit in downtown Atlanta.

Trump's visit to Atlanta, first reported last month, will start with a roundtable discussion that will cost supporters $100,000 to attend. It follows with a luncheon that will run attendees $2,800 — and a donation of at least $35,000 for a photo with the president.