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Clinton to speak to Alabama black Democrat group

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has agreed to speak to the Alabama Democratic Conference on the same day the black wing of the state Democratic Party makes its presidential endorsement.

Clinton's visit Oct. 13 also coincides with the first day for Alabama Democrats to sign up to be presidential delegates to the 2008 Democratic nominating convention.

Both events will happen back to back at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover.

"It's going to be one of the biggest political weekends we've had in a long time," said Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference and vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

The day begins at 10:30 a.m. with the Democratic Party opening qualifying for delegates. Party Chairman Joe Turnham said he expects many people to sign up the first day, which will give the public some idea of how well-known Alabama Democrats are sizing up the race.

Then at lunch, Clinton will be the keynote speaker for the ADC's meeting. Reed said other Democratic presidential candidates have been invited to participate, but if they come, Clinton will remain the main speaker.

Afterward, ADC members will gather to endorse one of the Democratic candidates for Alabama's presidential primary on Feb. 5.

"I consider our endorsement as the first caucus in the nation," Reed said Tuesday.

"The candidate that wins the ADC endorsement will go a long way to ensure a primary victory not only in Alabama, but in other states as well," he said.

Reed said the Democratic presidential race in Alabama is similar to the race nationally. "Overall, Hillary Clinton is leading all the candidates," he said. But he said he's not tipping his hand on which candidate he will support Oct. 13.

Reed has been friends with Sen. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton for many years and helped arrange a breakfast in Montgomery in March for the senator to chat with some of Alabama's top Democrats. Reed has also been complimentary of Sen. Barack Obama, but their friendship is much more recent.

The Alabama New South Coalition, another largely black political group, will meet Dec. 1 in Montgomery to make an endorsement. One of the group's founders, state Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said it's too early to say who might get the nod, but Clinton and Obama are the two candidates talked about most often by members.

In 1984, when the Rev. Jesse Jackson became a major black contender for the Democratic nomination, the ADC endorsed former Vice President Walter Mondale, while the New South Coalition went with Jackson. Mondale went on to win the nomination, but lose the presidential race.

"We had spoken to Mondale and encouraged him to run long before Jesse had announced," Reed said in an interview.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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