Political candidates often overlook minority issues, report says

A study shows candidate Web sites do not address issues concerning minorities.

Charley Bruce

A study released late October claims candidates for public office often overlook minority issues.

The report, which evaluated the representation of minority issues on the Web sites of major political candidates, was produced following the 2006 Minority Political Summit, held Oct. 4 at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

The meeting of community leaders, experts and politicians “was a response to the near invisibility of minorities in the policy platform on the official Web sites of candidates for public office,” the study said.

Bruce Corrie, an economics professor at Concordia University-St. Paul who helped organize the summit, said the best way for candidates to become more culturally competent is through open dialogue with communities.

“By developing strong relationships, (candidates) can understand the community and understand its concerns,” Corrie said.

The study doesn’t intend to make candidates look bad, but rather to highlight candidates who are doing well, Corrie said. It found many candidates are in line with priorities established at the summit.

Summit leaders are trying to arrange post-election meetings to discuss how to represent minority views, he said.

Black Student Union vice president Abdul Omari said some key issues for black voters this election are crime and preparing students for college.

Class size at public high schools is rising and graduates are being prepared for mediocrity, he said.

Schools aren’t reaching for higher standards, Omari said, but rather are teaching to the basic standards tests.

Candidates need to address these issues directly to black voters, he said.

“Sometimes it’s better to be blunt rather than broad,” Omari said.

He said a perfect way for candidates to reach black voters is to come to a place like the Black Student Union and talk about minority concerns.

These students know the University and many know north and south Minneapolis too, Omari said.

American Indian Student Cultural Center vice president Amy Ojibway said many students feel there aren’t many American Indian candidates in office and would like to see more.

American Indian candidates are generally more abundant on the local level, Ojibway said.

She said gaming and casino rights are issues specifically affecting American Indian voters.

Treaty rights ensuring sovereignty on American Indian land is also important to this group, she said.

Governor

The study found generic policy statements without mention of minority issues on most gubernatorial Web sites. But Green Party candidate Ken Pentel’s Web site addresses these issues: education, health care, transportation and appointment policies.

Candidates like the DFL’s Mike Hatch and the Independence Party’s Peter Hutchinson are communicating with the summit group, the report said. It said Republican Tim Pawlenty’s Web site keeps a record of his votes without mention of the priorities of minority communities.

U.S. Senate

The report said the only issue discussed at the summit that U.S. Senate candidates address on their Web sites is immigration and Democrat Amy Klobuchar was the only one close to aligning with the priorities of the summit.

Congressional District 5

Republican Alan Fine’s site includes a positive statement about racial equality and his support for public transportation and immigration policy were aligned with summit priorities, the study said.

Democrat Keith Ellison’s policies regarding education, the judicial system, transportation and immigration were closely aligned with summit goals, it said.

The report said Independence Party candidate Tammy Lee’s Web site has a short statement of equal rights aligned with summit values, while the Green Party candidate Jay Pond’s site addressed environmental pollution in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Attorney General

DFL candidate Lori Swanson was the only candidate for attorney general whose Web site explicitly stated she would defend civil rights, the study said.

Secretary of State

DFL secretary of state candidate Mark Ritchie’s Web site said he would work to provide equal opportunity for all to participate in the political process, according to the report. His site, it said, also stated he would work to encourage new citizens to vote by translating election materials into different languages.

The study said Independence Party candidate Joel Spoonheim is communicating with the summit group to meet its goals.