Democratic Hopefuls Court Black Mayors' Group Many Democratic presidential hopefuls paid a visit National Conference of Black Mayors in Baton Rouge, La. The candidates hit many hot issues: Hurricane Katrina, taxes, foreign policy, poverty and the environment.
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Democratic Hopefuls Court Black Mayors' Group

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Democratic Hopefuls Court Black Mayors' Group

Democratic Hopefuls Court Black Mayors' Group

Democratic Hopefuls Court Black Mayors' Group

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Many Democratic presidential hopefuls paid a visit National Conference of Black Mayors in Baton Rouge, La. The candidates hit many hot issues: Hurricane Katrina, taxes, foreign policy, poverty and the environment.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Here's NPR's David Greene.

DAVID GREENE: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was the first candidate to descend on Baton Rouge. He gave a casual talk about Hurricane Katrina, taxes and foreign policy, and he made one big blanket promise to the black mayors.

BILL RICHARDSON: I want you to know that any efforts that I undertake will be on your side.

GREENE: Former Senator John Edwards was introduced by actor Danny Glover who gave Edwards a passionate endorsement. Edwards then spoke about confronting poverty and admitted he was promoting both his candidacy and his book.

JOHN EDWARDS: Now, I didn't come here planning to try to sell books, but this is my book.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EDWARDS: There you go. Hey, I might as well do it, right? It just came - just came out a couple of days ago. It's called "Ending Poverty in America."

GREENE: Then there was Hillary Clinton. It has been noted that the senator, like her husband, adapts her speaking style to the part of the country she's in.

HILLARY CLINTON: I think we got to deal with our environmental issues including global climate change and anybody who has a coastal state like New York, like Louisiana, like so many represented here, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

GREENE: Unidentified Group: (Chanting) We want Barack.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

GREENE: Obama stood alone onstage and relied on a teleprompter. He talked about healing wounds in the black community and strengthening families. He said government can do some of the work, but individuals must step up.

BARACK OBAMA: Too many fathers think that responsibility ends at conception. When they had not yet realized that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child, but the courage to raise one. We know that our families are in crisis. That's a self- inflicted wound.

GREENE: Reactions were mixed. Mayor Michael Wolfe of Hempstead, Texas said Obama was right to challenge the black community.

MICHAEL WOLFE: You heard the old saying, the truth hurts, and if the shoe fits, then you wear it. Well, I think it's time that we as African-American people stand up to the truth.

GREENE: But Heather McTeer-Hudson, Greenville, Mississippi's mayor, said she was more impressed with Hillary Clinton's knowledge of policy.

HEATHER MCTEER: I'm looking to see where's my help going to come from, you know, in the next administration - after all the lights have gone down, after all the people have gone away.

GREENE: Obama and Clinton dominated conversation at this conference and many, especially black women, seem to be soul searching.

EILEEN FRANK: This election is turning out to be a moral dilemma for me.

GREENE: That's Eileen Frank, a New Orleans native who runs an insurance brokerage firm in New York that works with mayors. Frank planned to vote for Clinton who has more experience and she's still might. But as a black woman, Frank said, she feels some obligation to Obama.

FRANK: If black people can't rally behind Obama and support him, then how can we expect that other people to rally behind him and support him.

GREENE: David Greene, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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