After three seasons of playing the FBI’s assistant counterterrorism director on “The Blacklist,” Harry Lennix is well-versed in the agency’s paramilitary lingo.
Standing in for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Saturday, the actor compared his role as a campaign surrogate to that of an officer working to motivate the “ground troops” — volunteers who will share Clinton’s message with voters in Wilson County and throughout the United States.
“I think any good leader, any good general delegates,” said Lennix, who co-stars on the NBC primetime drama. “Hillary Clinton has a pretty well-established and well-developed organization. She needs people to delegate to and people they can delegate to.”
Lennix is one of those loyal lieutenants called upon to speak in Clinton’s stead. He addressed members of the Wilson County Democratic Party before a voter registration drive began Saturday afternoon.
“I was a Clinton surrogate in 2008,” Lennix said. “She has an opportunity to double down on the fulfilled promises after eight years of President Obama.”
Lennix emphasized Clinton’s plans to strengthen public education and reform the criminal justice system through drug courts and diversion programs that stress treatment over punishment for nonviolent drug offenders.
Speaking before Charlotte-Mecklenburg police released body camera and dashboard camera footage of interactions with Keith Scott, an African-American man who was shot and killed after police say he refused to drop a gun, Lennix called on authorities to make the video public and condemned a new state law that makes such recordings largely unattainable.
“She is deeply concerned and troubled by what we’re witnessing, what’s going on in Charlotte,” Lennix said of Clinton. “What makes me more attracted to her is her absolute transparency. Her cards are on the table. She is held to a standard higher than that of any other person on the planet.”
Scott’s wife and witnesses to the shooting have said Scott was unarmed. Nightly protests followed Scott’s death, which demonstrators say fits a pattern of police officers using deadly force against black men under questionable circumstances. One person was killed in the second night of Charlotte protests, which gave way to rioting and looting.
“This is a no-brainer,” Lennix said. “The people deserve protection. They deserve answers. They deserve accountability, and Hillary Clinton is all about that.”
Clinton faces Republican nominee Donald Trump, an outspoken billionaire whose calls for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to curtail illegal immigration have proven controversial, in November’s general election. The first televised debate between Clinton and Trump is planned for 9 p.m. Monday.
Lennix called Trump “unpredictable” and “completely temperamentally unfit” for the presidency.
“The fact that he’s here is the result of a fractionalization of a Republican Party that is out of step with where America is and where the world is going,” he said.
County Democratic Party Chairwoman Betty McCain said local officials were excited to hear from Lennix, who also has screen credits in “Dollhouse” from writer-director Joss Whedon and Robert Townsend’s 1991 film “The Five Heartbeats.”
“I think we’re all excited about him coming,” McCain said. “We’re tickled to death. We know that Hillary will do a wonderful job. We are thrilled that so many people are interested. The people we’ve got coming out, we couldn’t do it without them.”
Saturday’s voter registration drive was less an event promoting Clinton and other Democratic candidates than an initiative to ensure all Wilson County residents who want to exercise their right to vote will have the opportunity to do so, volunteers and party officials said.
“I only control one vote,” said Wilson resident Greg Bethea. “The voter registration we do is nonpartisan. It’s not with the expectation that everyone is going to vote for (Clinton), but you hope in the end that everyone is supportive of the process itself.”
Demita Edmundson of Wilson said she volunteered to sign up voters in order to ensure that her neighbors can make their voices heard at the polls.
“It’s important for me because of the fact that I don’t think individuals realize the liberty we really do have in these times we live in,” she said. “Them going out to vote and expressing their opinion about who should lead, it makes a difference.”
Teresa Bovia, a fellow Wilsonian and voter registration volunteer, agreed.
“I think you have to walk the talk,” Bovia said. “You can’t just sit around in Bojangles’ and at your home and complain about what you’re hearing in the debates and what you see on the news. You have to take that step to engage in the political process.”
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