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Published: Friday, 10/29/2004

Black Caucus member urges African-Americans to use their votes

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The first vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday tried to inspire local Democratic Party faithful, particularly African-Americans, to vote and to help increase voter turnout in the black community.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas), a five-term congressman, spoke at the Black Women's Democratic Caucus of Toledo's biennial political review at the Clarion Hotel-Westgate.

After her speech, Ms. Jackson Lee said she felt it was important to rally African-Americans because of what she sees as a clear distinction between President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry on economic issues, the war, and other issues more specific to African-Americans.

While not mentioning Republican Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell by name, she complained that the state is facing serious efforts to suppress the African-American vote despite the safeguards of the Help America Vote Act.

Mr. Blackwell has been targeted for criticism for ruling that provisional ballots will be counted only if they are cast in the voter's correct precinct.

Critics say the ruling will disproportionately affect blacks and the poor who move more often and make up the bulk of newly registered voters.

"We worked hard to get provisional ballots," Ms. Jackson Lee said. "How dare you talk about voting rights in Iraq and Afghanistan while telling Americans they don't have the right to vote."

Ms. Jackson Lee said she and four other members of Congress recently returned from Baghdad. During their visit, insurgents managed to explode weapons near the city's heavily guarded "Green Zone."

"It's worse than you could ever imagine," Ms. Jackson Lee said of the conditions facing U.S. troops in Iraq. "Our [soldiers] go out and perform their duties without complaint, but they do ask questions. They ask when can they come home. They talk about being held over. They say Democrats don't want soldiers to vote. I want every one of them to vote."

Ms. Jackson Lee called the Iraq war reckless and ill-conceived and said Republicans unfairly criticize people who voice opposition to it as being unpatriotic.

She also said that blacks and other minorities have been hurt by the President's policies over the past four years.

"I know 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. does not listen to immigrants, the poor, and the just-lost-their-jobs, and is only listening to its own drumbeat," Ms. Jackson Lee said.

Dwayne Clark, who is the Northwest Ohio African-American Coalition coordinator for Bush-Cheney, said President Bush has earned the support of African-Americans and is not the opponent of blacks he was made out to be yesterday.

"His [African-American] cabinet appointments don't reflect that view," said Mr. Clark, who did not attend the Jackson Lee speech. "No Child Left Behind, which has benefited the education of African-American and Hispanic children, doesn't support that view. The good congresswoman doesn't know what she's talking about. They are just slave Democrats who don't want to speak the truth."

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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