- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, while seeking support from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), told its members that they need to take a stronger stand on issues affecting the black community.

Mr. Nader’s heated words turned off several influential members of the CBC during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday night.

“I think the caucus could be stronger on a range of issues affecting African Americans, like predatory lending and these rent-to-own scams that plague their community,” the candidate said, when asked whether he felt the caucus was ineffectual.

Mr. Nader made similar comments the day before when he announced that Hispanic businessman and Green Party stalwart Peter Miguel Camejo was his vice-presidential choice — a pick that could lure Democratic Hispanic votes away from the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

The CBC members involved in the meeting wouldn’t discuss Mr. Nader’s comments with reporters afterward, adding that the conversation was meant to remain private.

But Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said there were very positive points in the meeting. All attending agreed that President Bush should be voted out of office and on how to improve education and health care, create jobs and reform elections, Mr. Zeese said.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said yesterday his top concern is that the Nader ticket would siphon votes from Mr. Kerry.

“Our fear is that, in the end, you will have Ralph Nader and John Kerry on the sidelines standing for many of the same issues, but both losers,” Mr. Cummings said.

Mr. Cummings said the Nader campaign is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s early candidacy, designed to force the Democratic Party to recognize that it was moving too far to the right and to criticize conservative policies that the party has adopted.

“We are not confident about their strategy, with Senator John Kerry running to the right of George W. Bush on some issues,” Mr. Zeese said.

Some CBC members urged Mr. Nader to drop out, but Mr. Zeese said that won’t happen and that the campaign might even help the Massachusetts senator.

“Our running will take votes from Bush’s base as we have with our nomination from the Reform Party and force John Kerry to not take the black community for granted,” he said.

After Monday’s announcement that Mr. Camejo would run on the Nader ticket, some Democrats said it is possible he could attract some of the coveted Hispanic vote away from Mr. Kerry.

“Well, I think [Mr. Camejo] is a very attractive, charismatic candidate who speaks fluent Spanish, and in California, he got a respectable percentage of the vote for a third-party candidate,” said Sergio Bendixen, a Hispanic Democratic pollster.

Mr. Bendixen said considering the importance of the immigrant vote in 2004, Mr. Camejo shouldn’t be overlooked.

“He has an advantage of speaking fluent Spanish and intimate knowledge of issues of the community and the fact that he is the first Hispanic to run for this high an office. He should not be underestimated,” he said.

But top Kerry campaign strategists Mark S. Mellman and Michael Donilan both rejected Mr. Camejo’s potential influence in the Nader campaign, with Mr. Mellman going so far as to ridicule Mr. Camejo.

“Peter Camejo has no impact on voters anywhere, including in California where he is from,” he said. “We take Ralph Nader very seriously, and most of those Nader voters as we get closer to Election Day will see that Kerry is different from Bush, and that voting for Nader could hurt all our chances to remove Bush.”

Mr. Donilan said the only issue with Mr. Nader is how many state ballots he qualifies for.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide