Beliefnet
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7 (AP) -- Al Gore was warmly received and George W. Bushwas met mostly with silence as both courted the black vote Thursday insatellite television speeches to the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc.

Both presidential candidates, however, were sharply criticized by conventionleaders for failing to show up in person at the meeting of the nation'slargest black religious organization.

While Democrats traditionally draw black votes, Gore needs to know that ``hedoes not automatically have us,'' said the Rev. William J. Shaw, presidentof the organization. ``And we want Mr. Bush to know that there areconsequences to just automatically writing us off.''

Gore, who sent his daughter Kristin to introduce him, received frequentapplause during a 15-minute speech that stressed black issues and familyvalues. He promised to attend next year's convention if elected.

``You and I have worked together, marched together, and led together for along time now,'' the Democratic presidential candidate told the audience atthe Los Angeles Convention Center.

There was mostly silence until polite applause at the end of Bush'sfive-minute speech.

``He didn't say anything. He did not explain anything .... It was a littlefive-minute, 'Glad you invited me. Sorry I can't be there. God bless you.That's it,''' said Geraldine Martin, a convention-goer from Wilkes County,N.C. ``If he wants my vote he's gonna have to do better than that.''

In addresses earlier in the day, convention leaders demanded that Gore andthe Republican Bush take seriously their stands on racial profiling,education and health care for the poor.

``Have we been written off? Have we been taken for granted?'' Shaw said.``Observe where these candidates did go and then remember where they did notcome.''

Gore called for raising the minimum wage, protecting Social Security andMedicare, passing a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens and apatients' bill of rights. He urged universal health coverage, beginning withchildren, as he pressed a family values theme.

Bush said his goal was to ``expand opportunity.'' If elected, he said hewould press for setting aside more than $100 billion in federal surplusfunds over a decade to promote charitable causes, including faith-basedprograms.

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