10/12/04 — Black caucus voter rally attracts more than 200 people

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Black caucus voter rally attracts more than 200 people

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on October 12, 2004 2:00 PM

"Wake up! Speak up! Vote up!" rang out repeatedly Monday night as the Get Out To Vote Rally was held at Mt. Zion Disciples Church.

Nearly 220 people turned out Monday night to hear from U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, State Auditor Ralph Campbell and other political candidates. The rally was also broadcast on radio to 15 eastern N.C. counties.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber Jr. began the night by paying tribute to civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

"We have no excuse but to do what she did -- shake the foundation of the nation," Barber said.

Democratic activist Mary Rhoe said that voter registration drives had been extremely successful. "There's no reason we shouldn't win everything from the White House down to the local level," she said.

"Over the next 22 days, we have the unique opportunity to tell George Bush and Dick Cheney that they have failed," said Dan Blue, former speaker of the N.C. House. "They have no plan to win the peace. They've even failed to acknowledge the problems."

Several candidates spoke, including three African-Americans running for statewide office: Campbell, seeking his fourth term as auditor; James A. Wynn, running for N.C. Supreme Court; and Wanda Bryant, an appointee to the Court of Appeals now seeking election.

Campbell noted that black candidates struggled in the 2000 statewide elections, and no blacks won statewide races in 2002.

"If we don't wake up, speak up and vote up this year, we're going to lose again," he said.

Wynn, a judge for 14 years on the N.C. Court of Appeals, is one of eight people running for a vacant Supreme Court seat. "I have more judicial experience than the other seven of them put together," he said, drawing widespread laughter and applause.

Whoever finishes atop the Nov. 2 race will win, he noted. "I could just about win with just the people in this room and listening on the radio."

Mrs. Bryant said that she believes in the Constitution and enforcement of civil rights. "It's important who the judges are on our state's two highest courts," she said.

Alan Thornburg, another judge seeking re-election to the Court of Appeals, called the court "the real workhorse of the state's judicial system." The court is the last point of appeal for 99 percent of cases, making judges vitally important, he said.

Butterfield, elected to the U.S. House in a special election in July, appeared primarily to introduce the keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Clyburn is vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Erskine Bowles, candidate for U.S. Senate, was represented by his political director, Starla McKinney, while Courtney Crowder, president of the Young Democrats of North Carolina, spoke for the Kerry/Edwards campaign.