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Politics / Issues

Presidential Candidates Talk Equality And Opportunity At Fort Lauderdale Conference

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks to the mostly black audience at the National Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks to the mostly black audience at the National Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Five presidential candidates spoke to the National Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale Friday.

The conference, which runs through Saturday, focuses on improving jobs, justice and education in American cities. 

Democratic and Republican candidates talked about how government can address the conference theme: “Save Our Cities.” 

Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a direct shot at Republican candidate Jeb Bush. Clinton said Bush isn’t living up to his campaign’s theme of “Right to Rise.” 

“I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise and then say that you’re for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare,” Clinton said. “People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care.” 

She pledged to work with the group to make sure all men, women, boys and girls are treated as equals. 

“I’m proud to be your ally,” she said. “I’m committed to being your partner.” 

Former Florida governor and presidential nominee Jeb Bush spoke about the first charter school he helped found in Florida at the Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale Friday.
Credit Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald
Former Florida governor and presidential nominee Jeb Bush spoke about the first charter school he helped found in Florida at the Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale Friday.

Bush said he’s always focused on making sure everyone has a chance at prosperity. It’s why he helped found Florida’s first charter school before being elected governor.

“Let’s start something new and hopeful for people who shouldn’t have to wait for a real opportunity,” Bush said of a conversation with the school's co-founder T. Willard Fair, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami.  "That first year [of the charter school], 90 black children in Liberty City began their journey toward success. And the day that school opened was one of the happiest, proudest moments of my life.”

 

Former Democratic Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, outlined extensive changes he would make to law enforcement. They include more funding and training for officers dealing with mentally ill people. 

O’Malley says law enforcement needs to treat the public, but especially minorities, with more respect. He referenced recent traffic stops where black drivers were pulled over for minor infractions and later died at the hands of police or in police custody.

“As Americans we believe you do not surrender your human dignity when your tail light on your car happens to burn out,” O’Malley said. “And no American surrenders their dignity -- no matter the emergency -- because of the color of their skin.”

Democratic U.S. Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, said all public colleges should be tuition-free.

Republican surgeon Ben Carson also spoke, pushing back on the idea he wants to eliminate social safety net programs.

Jacksonville resident Joyce Morgan Danford says the candidates didn’t pander to the mostly black audience.

“Yes, yes, they absolutely took what’s going on in our nation, and what the Urban League represents, very seriously," Danford said.

Danford was most impressed with Democrat Hillary Clinton, who said she would be an ally and partner in those efforts.

Just five of 21 invited candidates showed up at the conference -- three Democrats and two Republicans. But Danford says those candidates will force the field to grapple with issues of injustice and racism.

The National Urban League said it invited 21 candidates. CEO Marc Moral said six candidates -- Lincoln Chafee, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, George Pataki, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump -- never responded to the group’s invite. The other candidates said they had scheduling conflicts.

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