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Southern mayors ask 2020 Democratic field for plans on regional concerns

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Sept. 20 (UPI) — A group of city leaders from four Southern states has appealed to the field of Democratic presidential candidates, asking them to provide detailed plans that cover a number of varied concerns facing the region.

Mayors LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans, Steve Benjamin of Columbia, S.C., Chokwe Antar Lumumba of Jackson, Miss., and Randall Woodfin of Birmingham, Ala., posted an open letter Friday to the remaining candidates to express their hopes and concerns. They noted that urban issues have often been framed by cities not located the South, even though they are home to “some of America’s most dynamic economies.”

“[We] collectively represent the voice of four Southern cities, representing approximately 1.7 million residents, including more than 345,000 Democratic voters, and importantly, 196 Democratic delegates in 2020 from the states our cities serve,” the letter states.

“Because our states’ presidential primaries occur in the first few months of the presidential primary season, we fully intend to make the challenges our cities face and the priorities of our Southern communities front of mind for your campaigns.

“This letter will serve as a road map for your campaigns to engage with us if you wish to seek any of our individual endorsements.”

The current Democratic field still has a number of candidates, even after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ended his campaign Friday — including one mayor and three former mayors.

The southern mayors asked the candidates to address several issues — including expanding both affordable housing and federal entities like Community Development Block Grants, the Economic Development Administration and Small Business Administration. They also asked to be heard concerning plans for infrastructure, immigration, gender equality, racial equity, criminal justice reform, health equity and climate change.

“[These matters] represent the kind of human rights and development agenda that is essential for our cities to meet the needs of residents and move our economies forward,” the letter states.

“The Democratic nomination runs through our communities. And given the power that we wield in this primary process, we fully intend to use our influence and elevate the interests of our residents.”

Benjamin told The Washington Post this week they decided to speak out now because their priority issues have not received sufficient attention on the campaign trail.

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