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It’s Kerry, Wilkerson

9/2/2008, 9:01 a.m.

It’s Kerry, Wilkerson

“Don’t be too busy on Tuesday.”

Voters tend to trivialize the importance of preliminary elections. If the timing is inconvenient, voters will miss primaries with the expectation of casting their “real” votes in November. When too many people share that outlook, political upsets can occur.

The fierce contest to win the Democratic presidential nomination should convince everyone that it is unwise to take political results for granted. On Tuesday, Sept. 16, two incumbents of special importance to African Americans face opponents. The community cannot afford to lose either of them.

One is Sen. John F. Kerry, who has been unerringly right on the issues. His voting record on issues of importance to African Americans has earned him a 100 percent “A” rating from the NAACP. These issues include:

• Raising the minimum wage,

• Increasing federal student aid,

• Ensuring that no American is denied their right to vote, and

• Expanding access to quality health care for children and working families.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerry has actively promoted programs to help minorities succeed in business. He knows that the creation of wealth is the next big hurdle for African Americans. He is ahead of the curve on that issue.

It is also important to remember that Kerry was early in his endorsement of Barack Obama, much to the chagrin of many of his constituents in Massachusetts. There should be a solid turnout from the black community to help re-elect Kerry.

Another senator of importance to the black community is State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson of the Second Suffolk District. Two years ago, she faced a challenger who came close to scoring an upset victory, but since that time her opponent has essentially disappeared. She only emerges when it’s time to ask for the public’s vote.

It seems that Wilkerson’s opponent would like to add the office of state senator to her résumé, but she has shown little interest in the exhausting, thankless work that goes into serving the people. Wise voters will consider the extent to which Wilkerson has served the community, and not focus on the personal peccadilloes that delight the media.

The achievements of Wilkerson’s 15 years in the state Senate have been extraordinary. Her intelligence and political sophistication have made her a prominent member of that body. For example, banks are required to comply with the provisions of the Community Reinvestment Act. Wilkerson created the only such act in the United States that applies to insurance companies.

She also acted to combat the prevalence of “driving while black” police stops, authoring a racial/gender profiling data collection bill that has become a national model. In order to circumvent the “stop snitching” code in the black community, she sponsored a law that was passed to provide necessary funds for witness protection.

Wilkerson also authored an anti-insurance redlining law and an anti-predatory lending law, and has been involved in a number of legislative actions to benefit the community. When one considers the good that Wilkerson does, the admittedly embarrassing mistakes she has made seem petty by comparison.

The elevation of Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee imposes a greater responsibility on all African Americans — we must vote. On Tuesday, Sept. 16, we should vote for Sen. John F. Kerry and state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.