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Bowles Trying To Draw Support Of Minority Voters

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DURHAM, N.C. — Democratic Senate candidate Erskine Bowles is fighting an image problem with some voters who are usually loyal to the Democratic Party.

Republicans wasted little time in TV ads criticizing Bowles over his previous ties to the White House. On the campaign trail, Bowles is careful to distance himself from his former boss, President Bill Clinton. But his campaign has placed an ad in The Carolinian, an African-American newspaper, touting his experience as Clinton's chief of staff.

Some black voters wonder if Bowles is running two campaigns.

"The very fact that he would be seen with Clinton in the African-American community, or may indeed pull Bill Clinton out of his back pocket in the closing days of this election in the African-American community, but wouldn't dare be seen with him in the broader community -- that's pandering," said Cash Michaels, of

The Carolinian


"I really have tried to make sure that people know, no matter what the marketing vehicle is. I just have one position on the issues, whether it goes to one group or another," Bowles said.

Experts say a man who is not even running in the Senate race could influence the outcome. African-American leaders say without a divisive figure like Jesse Helms on the ticket, some black voters may just stay home on Election Day.

"If no one is really addressing our issues, then folks aren't really motivated," Michaels said.

Bowles believes African-American voters will go to the polls to support him and his ideas.

"I think when people see where I stand on the issues and where Mrs. Dole does, I think they'll decide I'm the right guy and it will be worth voting," Bowles said.

Polls show Dole has 6 percent support among minority voters, but if voters of color do not turn out in big numbers, they could help send Dole to Washington. A spokeswoman for the Dole campaign said she is reaching out to voters in all communities.