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Kemp Courts the Black Vote in N.J.

October 4, 1996

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) _ Vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp criticized Democrats on Friday for taking the minority vote for granted and told a black audience that Republicans were ``coming for your constituency.″

The former congressman and U.S. housing secretary received only polite applause from about 650 people attending the New Jersey Black Issues convention and conceded he was entering a ``den of lions.″

``This country will be better off if your vote will not be taken for granted,″ Kemp said in a 20-minute luncheon address. ``It’s not good for our communities, it’s not good for the cities, and I’m here to say that Bob Dole and Jack Kemp are seeking every single vote in this country.″

The Republican Party has had a rocky relationship with black voters. In New Jersey, that included GOP strategist Ed Rollins’ claim, later disavowed, that the party paid black ministers to hold down voter turnout in the 1993 governor’s race.

But Kemp spoke of working together and asked that the ticket be given another look.

Jynell Harris, a 55-year-old Vineland High School teacher, attended the conference luncheon and said she had a lot of respect for Kemp before he joined the GOP ticket and changed some of his stances on affirmative action to jibe with Dole’s.

``I just can’t see him changing all of his views when he was so opposed to what Bob Dole was doing,″ Harris said. ``I just think he’s a turncoat.″

Dolores McGill, a Paterson affirmative action officer, said that while she would not vote for Dole, she agreed with Kemp’s message.

``One of our downfalls is that we’ve always been Democratic and not listened to the other party and in order to know what they’re presenting to us, we need to listen,″ said McGill, 51.

``Who knows, we could change our mind,″ she said. ``One day someone may say something that would change my mind.″

The convention was one of two appearances Kemp made Friday with his wife, Joanne, and Gov. Christie Whitman in a state with 15 electoral votes and a large number of independent voters.

Kemp addressed a morning outdoor rally in the recently renovated downtown district of Union, a blue-collar city a few miles west of Newark. There he focused on the campaign’s theme to cut federal income taxes and to promote job growth.

``Bob Dole and I trust you. Bill Clinton trusts government,″ Kemp said. ``We want to empower the families, the teachers, and the men and women of the businesses of New Jersey. Frankly, the Clinton administration wants to empower the government.″