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NAACP attacks black leaders' support of Bush

The organization says three black lawmakers who support Jeb Bush are not doing what's best for their constituents.


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 7, 1998

NAACP leaders lashed out Tuesday at three black state lawmakers for backing Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush, saying the endorsements were motivated by "personal gain, power, ego and expediency."

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The attack on Tampa Bay lawmakers Rudy Bradley and James Hargrett and South Florida's Willie Logan marked the latest wrinkle in the battle for black voters. It also reflects rifts among Florida's African-American leadership, no longer quite the monolithic political force it was a few years ago.

Sen. Hargrett and Reps. Bradley and Logan, all Democrats, have thrown their support to Bush. They say he has listened to blacks and offers a better vision for Florida than Democratic nominee Buddy MacKay.

But the leaders of the political action committee for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People suggested Tuesday that the lawmakers had turned their backs on their own constituents.

They said Bush's positions on issues important to African-Americans -- they cited affirmative action, adequate funding for public schools, vouchers for private schools, and making it harder to sue businesses for damages -- are either ominously vague or clearly contrary to the interests of black Floridians.

"There's been no indication whatsoever from Mr. Bush that he has any interest in the items that we're concerned about," said T.H. Poole, chairman of the PAC and a longtime NAACP leader from Lake County.

Rep. Bradley of St. Petersburg and Sen. Hargrett of Tampa lashed back Tuesday afternoon, saying Poole's committee appears out of touch with what the legislators' constituents are really concerned with. Private school vouchers and civil court reform are barely on the radar screen, both said.

"I hear differently from my constituents, who are worried about poor people, social services, better jobs and education opportunities," Hargrett said in a statement.

Bradley said the NAACP statement was driven by North Florida NAACP leaders who are putting their friendship with MacKay ahead of the interests of most black Floridians. MacKay has picked up endorsements from nine black state lawmakers and several black U.S. representatives, but the NAACP PAC had not endorsed anyone.

Bradley said he has not spoken to Bush about affirmative action and doesn't agree with him on everything but knows he would have Bush's ear, if he gets to the governor's mansion.

"I'm just trying to represent my constituents effectively in this process," Bradley said. "There's no way you can represent your constituents if you don't have a good relationship with the (political) leadership."


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