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Maryland congressman urges GOP frontrunners to attend Morgan State University forum moderated by Tavis Smiley


Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, a former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, is urging Republican presidential frontrunners to participate in a forum next week focusing on minority issues.

The Baltimore Democrat sent a letter Wednesday to Republican National Committee Chairman Mel Martinez, a U.S. senator from Florida, and GOP National Chairman Mike Duncan, asking them to use their influence to convince the top four Republican candidates to attend next Thursday’s “All American Presidential Forum” at Morgan State University, a historically black college in Baltimore.

The forum will be moderated by black talk show host Tavis Smiley and will feature black and Hispanic journalists as panelists. It will be broadcast live on PBS.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred D. Thompson and Arizona Sen. John McCain have said they cannot attend, citing scheduling conflicts. Cummings said he was “both dismayed and personally offended” by those decisions.

Candidates who have confirmed include Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Calif. Rep. Duncan Hunter, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, according to the program’s Web site. Conservative activist Alan L. Keyes, who announced his candidacy last week, also has said he will attend.

A spokesman with the Republican National Committee could not immediately confirm receipt of Cummings’ letter.

Spanish-language Univision was forced to cancel a Sept. 16 forum after most of the Republican contenders said they could not attend. The candidates also declined to appear at forums this summer sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and the National Urban League.

Cummings is on Morgan’s board of regents and the university’s campus is within his congressional district.

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–Associated Press

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