Democratic presidential-nomination hopefuls fought ice and snow in Des Moines on Dec. 1, then voiced their positions on issues that deal directly with black and Latino voters.
The Brown and Black Presidential Forum, held at North High School, served as peaceful ground for the eight attending candidates to answer questions from the community. Immigration reform, health care, and education were the key topics.
Participating candidates were Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Biden arrived almost one hour late after driving seven hours in the rain-snow mixture from Chicago.
The forum, moderated by Michele Norris of National Public Radio and Ray Suarez of PBS, allowed for questions from students and also let candidates ask questions of each other. While it was a nonpartisan event, no Republican candidates responded to their invitations.
Candidates seemed to reach a middle ground on many issues. Rodham Clinton called on all of the candidates to bring more attention to the number of AIDS victims in the United States.
"Join me in a pledge that we are going to do everything we can to address the AIDS pandemic in the U.S.," she said. "We have turned our backs and frozen our money."
Edwards asked Obama directly if he would help him raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour and relieve the poverty levels of minorities in the United States.
"The cause of poverty in U.S. is central to me," Edwards said.
Obama strongly agreed with Edwards and said he would work to raise the minimum wage.
"America's got a cold while the black and brown are battling pneumonia," Obama said.
Immigration became a hot topic of the night, with moderators directing questions at Rodham Clinton, who has received criticism on the issue of giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. She said giving immigrants licenses would provide them with documentation that they have not earned.
"Asking officials to ratify someone who's not here legally is not what I want," she said. "I'm committed to comprehensive immigration reform. As people move on registration then certain things should be given to them."
Richardson and Dodd were in strong opposition.
"The license is not on status but whether or not they know how to drive," Dodd said. "The rights of those who drive with licenses count, too - you have to have trained drivers on the road."
On the subject of education, candidates agreed that the key to a strong education system is to start from the beginning.
"We've got to start young and double Head Start programs," Biden said. "I plan to have 100,000 more teachers creating smaller classrooms and raise minimum wage for teachers."
His education program is estimated to cost $30 million, with the majority of the funds coming from the Pentagon budget.
Candidates also exchanged lighthearted remarks among each other; Richardson asked Rodham Clinton if she agreed that governors make good presidents, because her husband was a governor.
"Yes, Bill, I think they do, but they also make good vice presidents," she responded.
© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE