GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA
— The U.S. presidential election is approaching, and excitement is building in key states where voters could determine the outcome if the race is close. The contest between President Obama and Mitt Romney in North Carolina is too close to call and African Americans are turning out for early voting.
Early voting is underway in North Carolina and, for African American voters like Walter Gilmore, there's a sense of urgency.
"I am just worried in general for jobs. So many people in North Carolina are unemployed and then trying to get people back to work here instead of shipping jobs overseas," said Walter Gilmore, a North Carolina voter.
A record turnout among African Americans helped Barack Obama narrowly win the state four years ago. In the presidential contest this time, the Republican - Mitt Romney - seems to have the edge but it's close. North Carolinians are divided on who they want to lead the country.
These college students are voting for the first time.
"What won North Carolina was the early African-American vote especially the college students. We have a big influence," said one.
"We need every vote, every vote so encourage him to come and do one stop," said another.
Alma Adams knows first hand how important it is for Democrats to get African Americans to the polls. She's served in North Carolina's legislature for more than 18 years. She says turnout among blacks so far is impressive.
"That says to me that people really want to get involved in this process and they understand the urgency of it, and that is so critical," said Adams.
Adams is popular here because she supports quality education, jobs and increasing the state's minimum wage.
"We need to try to find ways to get people back to work get good jobs for people, good benefits," she said.
Republican Party candidate Olga Wright is challenging Adams for her seat in the state legislature. She's one of only a few African-American Republicans running for office here.
She promotes popular ideas like improving education and helping at-risk families. Wright says convincing Democrats to support her is an uphill battle.
"I separate myself from the political divisiveness that propels everything. You know people will not look at me because I am a registered Republican. Party does not matter," said Wright.
On the campaign trail, Adams tells constituents she will fight against budget cuts to programs that matter to her community.
"So we have got one or two things to do - run for office and try to help make a difference there or control those people who are elected to serve you," she said.
Adams and other community leaders say the fact that more African Americans are involved in the political process is a hopeful sign.