Friday, May 14, 2004

Top aides for Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry have promised that staff members will meet regularly with members of the Congressional Black Caucus from key states in hopes of ensuring a high voter turnout, a black lawmaker said yesterday.

Members of the Kerry campaign met with 14 caucus members this week to plan for voter turnout efforts, honing a message that will appeal to blacks and other urban voters, said Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat.

“The purpose was to connect and strategize on a message,” said Mr. Meeks, who called the Thursday meeting. “And it was also to begin utilization of resources with the Kerry campaign in these keys states where the CBC is represented. No one knows these districts better than these members, which can and will make a difference which way a state goes.”

He noted cities such as New Orleans, Detroit, Philadelphia and Cleveland are represented in the caucus.

“This will allow the Kerry campaign to find people to work for them, and let them know where to advertise, the black newspapers and places like that, and the best way to utilize its money,” Mr. Meeks said.

In a speech last month at the National Press Club, CBC Chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said that “we’re not going to allow ourselves to be divided or depressed into staying home on Election Day. This year, Americans of color — and all Americans — are going to vote in record numbers.”

Mr. Cummings said yesterday that Mr. Kerry is in a good spot because of his party affiliation.

“Right now African Americans feel comfortable with John Kerry because he is a Democrat,” said Mr. Cummings. “But I can tell you that he is slowly moving in a direction that they will feel comfortable with him because he is John Kerry.”

Mr. Kerry has garnered some strong support in the black community, but, Mr. Cummings said, despite the vow of record turnout, “he knows that he has to work it and he knows that, as we said, the African-American vote will come out. But he has to make sure he has a better plan for the future than President Bush.”

And if he can’t convey that, “a lot of that vote will stay home,” he added.

The Kerry campaign could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Kerry last month heard grumblings about the lack of racial diversity at the top of his campaign.

“He is generally surrounded by white folks, and sure that concerns me, sure,” Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina said at the time.

In response, the campaign added several black staffers.

The Massachusetts senator is courting a constituency that rarely deviates from the Democratic party line. No Republican presidential candidate has received more than 16 percent of the black vote since 1976, when Gerald Ford achieved that number.

Mr. Kerry was in the District yesterday to receive the endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO), which had backed President Bush in 2000.

“After three-and-a-half years of disappointing leadership under George Bush, we need to change course in November and elect a president with a real record of supporting police officers and a lifetime of standing with law enforcement,” said David Holway, president of the police organization.

The 50,000-member police organization, which is headquartered in Quincy, Mass., is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). It backed Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.

The organization has been angry in recent months over a Bush administration proposal to limit overtime pay for U.S. workers, including federal law-enforcement authorities.

• Stephen Dinan and Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

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