Call For 'No' Votes For Whitman

Haqi Ismail, one of the survivors of the attack, left, lies injured at a hospital in Sulaimaniyah, accompanied by his brother, center-left, and brother-in-law, center-right, after gunmen killed 21 people, including 3 high-school students and 9 college students, and wounded Ismail, after they dragged them off buses inbetween Qara Tappah and Baqouba, in Iraq Sunday, June 4, 2006. (AP Photo)
Minority politicians and civic leaders accused Gov. Christie Whitman of exhibiting racial insensitivity and said Thursday they fear she might practice environmental racism if she takes over the EPA.

In a meeting with New Jersey's U.S. senators, they urged them to press the Senate to reject President-elect Bush's nomination of Whitman to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., and members of the New Jersey Legislative Black and Latino Caucus became the first New Jersey politicians to oppose the governor's selection. Besides advocating 'No' votes on Whitman, they also asked Sens. Robert Torricelli and Jon Corzine to reject former Sen. John Ashcroft, chosen by Bush as the next attorney general.

The group was joined by the president of the New Jersey NAACP, black ministers and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said Whitman's handling of alleged racial profiling by New Jersey law enforcers showed poor judgment.

"How can we trust her judgment in where to put toxic waste dumps?" Sharpton asked. "How can she deal with subtle, institutional racism when it took her three years to find blatant racism on the highways that she travels every day?"

Whitman spokeswoman Jayne O'Connor said Whitman has a strong environmental record.

Minority leaders have said Whitman was too slow to acknowledge that New Jersey State Police troopers were targeting minorities for traffic stops. Whitman admitted to racial profiling after the 1998 shooting of minorities by troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike and ordered changes in training and patrol procedures to end it.

A half-dozen state legislators from the New Jersey Legislative Black and Latino Caucus said Whitman has been insensitive in other ways to minority issues.

They cited a picture of the smiling governor frisking a black youth during a 1996 ride-along with police.

"The governor has a pattern of behavior that we would regard as anti-minority," Assemblyman Bill Payne said, which "may very well cause the more siting of dumps" in urban areas if she should head the EPA.

Whitman spokeswoman O'Connor said her program of cleaning up urban "brownfields" -- abandoned industrial areas -- is cited as a national model, and the ministers and politicians have few statistics to back up their claims of toxic sites in urban areas.

Whitman was "the first governor in the country to acknowledge that racial profiling existed," O'Connor said.