Archive for Tuesday, July 15, 2003

NAACP lashes out against Democrats who didn’t attend presidential forum

July 15, 2003

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— Three of the Democrats' nine presidential contenders drew the wrath of the president of the NAACP Monday for skipping the group's candidate forum, reflecting a growing sentiment among blacks that their loyalty to the Democratic Party is being taken for granted.

The six Democratic presidential hopefuls shared the stage with four empty chairs, each labeled with the name of a White House candidate who didn't make it. They were President Bush and Democrats Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich.

While Bush's absence wasn't a surprise -- he hasn't attended NAACP conventions since taking office -- the group's leaders were outraged at the Democratic no-shows.

"In essence, you now have become persona non grata," NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said of the Democrats who passed on the event. "Your political capital is the equivalent of confederate dollars."

The party is off to a somewhat rocky start with minorities in this election cycle. Black party leaders were furious when the Democratic National Committee planned to lay off 10 staffers this spring, and all were black. The DNC backed off that plan and has been working with the Congressional Black Caucus to ease tensions.

Blacks have been a loyal constituency for the Democratic presidential nominee in recent elections. In 2000, Al Gore captured 90 percent of the black vote to George W. Bush's 9 percent, one of the lowest percentages for a Republican in decades, according to exit surveys. Bill Clinton got more than 80 percent in his two Democratic presidential campaigns.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina initially planned to skip the forum, but changed his mind Sunday night after being criticized by NAACP leaders. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts planned to attend the convention but was trying to negotiate an appearance separate from the other candidates who were attending -- Sharpton, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Kerry also agreed to join the forum after Edwards did, allowing both to escape Mfume's verbal lashing Monday.

Former House Minority Leader Gephardt, D-Mo., said he couldn't make it because of a prior family obligation. Lieberman, a senator from Connecticut, said he had campaign events in New York, and Kucinich, the Ohio representative, said he wanted to be in Washington for votes in the House.

People attending the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People's 94th annual convention in Miami Beach, Fla., give
NAACP president and CEO Kweisi Mfume a standing ovation after Mfume
criticized three Democratic presidential candidates for skipping
the group's presidential forum. The three candidates who missed
Monday's meeting offered family and work obligations as reasons
they couldn't attend.

People attending the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's 94th annual convention in Miami Beach, Fla., give NAACP president and CEO Kweisi Mfume a standing ovation after Mfume criticized three Democratic presidential candidates for skipping the group's presidential forum. The three candidates who missed Monday's meeting offered family and work obligations as reasons they couldn't attend.

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