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Bush alienates black lawmakers

Florida's black lawmakers appealed to every African-American voter in the state Thursday to get to the polls and help defeat Republican Jeb Bush in the governor's race.

They said Bush's message has made the black community angry and fearful.

What has irritated them the most: When Bush was asked this summer about what he would do for the African-American community, his response was "probably nothing."

"That one statement made by Mr. Bush has truly angered the African-American community, and we're going to show him on Election Day," said Sen. Matthew Meadows, D-Fort Lauderdale.

Bush's response: "These comments are being made by partisans who are taking things out of context to make a political point."

He clarified his statement, made during a televised town meeting when he and other candidates were asked what they would do for the African-American community.

"I said we should strive to have a society where there is equality of opportunity, not a guarantee of results so probably nothing. I said we should guarantee that people start at the same starting line and allow people to pursue their dreams."

Bush said Thursday that government should not tolerate discrimination in employment or housing and that he supports minority business programs.

However, "I'm not offering a government program for any group that's part of the problem. We keep asking government to be the answer to all problems and we lose responsibility for our own lives."

Sen. Betty Holzendorf, D-Jacksonville, made it clear she wasn't a Bush fan.

"I don't think he has a clue, not one single clue, about what's best for this state. I think all of his comments are about what's best for him," she said.

The black lawmakers, members of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators, said there will be a massive, statewide effort to get African-Americans to the polls, including transportation for voters who need rides.

State Rep. Al Lawson Jr., D-Tallahassee, called on African-Americans to take Election Day off from work to get into their communities and urge people to vote.

The group is supporting the whole Democratic ticket, but the focus at Thursday's news conference was Bush and Democrat Doug Jamerson, an African-American running for education commissioner. If Jamerson wins, he will be the first black person elected statewide to a Cabinet seat.

Neither Jamerson nor his opponent, Frank Brogan, have made race an issue in the campaign, but a poll by Jamerson's campaign indicated that 5 percent of respondents wouldn't vote for Jamerson because he is black.

Brogan's campaign expressed concern Thursday about voting for any particular candidate based on race.

"It's personally offensive to me for anyone to suggest that people of one ethnic group would automatically vote for someone of their race without considering qualifications," said Chevon Baccus, communications coordinator for the campaign. Brogan has African-American supporters throughout Florida, she said.