- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton said he will improve on his standing in the polls and do well in today’s primary.

“I always do better than the polls say, because most pollsters don’t survey areas where I am the strongest,” Mr. Sharpton said.

“There are polls that have me at 5 percent, 15 percent and 20 percent. If I listened to polls, I would never get out of bed in the morning,” Mr. Sharpton said.

The New York-based, Pentecostal minister traveled throughout the state yesterday, beginning in Charleston and ending back in Columbia after a stop in Florence and another in Georgetown, where he vowed to repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In front of the “Old Slave Mart” in Charleston, Mr. Sharpton said he hoped to inspire blacks and whites in the state.

“I speak here because this is a place where I once would have been sold as property, and now I stand here as a presidential candidate,” Mr. Sharpton said.

“We want to reflect on the past, but not dwell on it, and look to the brightness of our future.”

Charleston City Council member Kwadjo Campbell said he left the Democratic Party when he ran for office because the party would not listen to his views — an affront that Mr. Sharpton said is occurring far too often within the Democratic Party.

“The Democrats here have done nothing to speak to our issues as we continue to lose land, our businesses and jobs,” Mr. Campbell said.

“My goal is to help Reverend Sharpton win the Democratic primary so that he can speak to the issues of the black community,” said Mr. Campbell, who plans to vote for President Bush in the general election.

Mr. Sharpton said the only way Democrats can win in November is to expand the party in the black community “and use that expanded party base to beat George Bush.”

Blacks make up about one-third of South Carolina’s population and could represent up to one-half of those who vote today.

The party too long has been concerned with swing voters “that are never going to vote for the Democratic Party anyway,” he added.

“I’m telling you to quit swinging with the wrong people and stand with those who are married to you and have stood with you through thick and thin,” Mr. Sharpton said.

Mr. Sharpton turned his focus to jobs while in Georgetown, which lost 1,200 jobs in 2003 and is set to lose 50 more next month when the Andrews wire factory shuts down, said James E. Sanderson, president of the United Steelworkers Union Local 7898.

“We have lost two steel plants and the Cooper Wiring plant already between May of 2003 up to now, and trade agreements like NAFTA are directly responsible,” Mr. Sanderson said.

Mr. Sharpton said he immediately would rescind NAFTA if elected and institute a five-year, $250 billion job-creation program.

Mr. Sanderson, who is a Republican, said he doesn’t blame NAFTA on President Clinton, under whose administration it passed.

“It was the first President Bush who pushed for it and the Republicans who pushed. It just happened under his presidency,” he said.

Steelworkers in Georgetown rose to their feet when Mr. Sharpton stood hand in hand with Mr. Sanderson and told them he would not back out of the race and would address their issues at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

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