Democratic National Convention
Thursday, August 17, 2000

Delegates can live with Lieberman

Stances raise eyebrows

By Howard Wilkinson and Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOS ANGELES — Democrats rocked the Staples Center with deafening cheers Wednesday night as Joe Lieberman accepted the vice presidential nomination, making the doubts some have about this centrist politician harder to hear.

        But the doubts are there, nonetheless, among some of the Democratic Party's most loyal constituencies.

        There are African-American delegates who worry about a candidate who has said the time for affirmative action may be past. There are union members who worry about a running mate who has supported school vouchers and, like the presidential nominee, free trade agreements that labor thinks threaten American jobs.

        Even with the doubts, though, they are ready to go out and elect a Gore-Lieberman ticket because they fear the alternative — another Republican administration.

        “I have had my doubts about Joe Lieberman,” said state Rep. Sam Britton, D-Cincinnati, an African-American. “I'd feel better if we had a vice presidential candidate who came out clearly for affirmative action, because it means so much to people.”

Considerable nervousness

               In the days following Mr. Gore's selection, there was considerable nervousness among African-American leaders in the party over 5-year-old statements the Connecticut senator made saying he did not believe in racial quotas and suggesting the time for special consideration might be past.

        But Tuesday, Mr. Lieberman had barely arrived in Los Angeles before he headed straight for the caucus of black delegates that meets daily in the Wilshire Grand Hotel downtown and proclaimed he “always has been” and “always will be” a supporter of affirmative action.

        “It's something he needed to say,” Mr. Britton said. “This has to be clear. We can't afford to turn off African-American voters to this ticket.”

        Delegate Gerald Neal of Louisville, the only African-American in the Kentucky Senate, said he thinks Mr. Lieberman is good for the ticket.

        “Obviously there were issues that needed to be addressed. I think he has addressed them adequately,” Mr. Neal said.

        Future Vincent-Hicks, a delegate from Cincinnati, had two reasons to question the choice of Mr. Lieberman: She is an African-American and an officer in the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

Vouchers rankle

               Mr. Lieberman's sponsorship of legislation that would have created a pilot program of school vouchers in failing school districts was anathema to her union and those who think vouchers take dollars from public education.

        “I don't see anything wrong with discussing the idea of vouchers, but it clearly has an adverse impact on urban school districts,” Ms. Vincent-Hicks said.

        She said her concern over Mr. Lieberman's past support of school vouchers is tempered by the understanding that "the man at the top of the ticket, Al Gore, has been dead set against school vouchers.”

        Cincinnatian Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said he thinks organized labor may have made a mistake by giving the public the impression it opposes all trade agreements.

        “What labor wants is fair trade,” he said. “Trade agreements that protect jobs, protect the environment. I think we can work with Al Gore and Joe Lieberman on that.”

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