DETROIT - Surprising even leaders of their own community, Arab-American political activists have endorsed Ohio U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich as their Democratic candidate for president.
Kucinich, who finished sixth in New Hampshire, came away with more than two-thirds of the votes cast by members of the Arab-American Political Action Committee, the group's head, Osama Siblani, said Thursday. Kucinich was followed by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark took third in the voting Wednesday in Dearborn.
"It was not a strategy endorsement, it was an endorsement of principle," said Siblani, who also is editor-in-chief of The Arab-American News.
"The argument we had yesterday was should we stand by our principles or cast a vote based on electability," he said. "But this was a group that voted for (President) Bush in 2000 and were stung by the Bush administration."
"They decided that they needed to make it clear that this community will vote for the candidate that best represents its interests, not necessarily the one that may be elected," Siblani said.
Siblani said while representatives from the campaigns of U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Dean and Clark were on hand Wednesday to lobby for their respective candidates, there was no one representing Kucinich.
Still, of the more than 200 people who attended, the majority discounted current front-runner, Kerry, because of his stand on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Although only 67 votes were cast in total, those votes were based on the results of a survey distributed to attendees of the Wednesday evening meeting, Siblani said.
Explaining the endorsement of a candidate who has failed to garner much support among Democrats, Siblani said that in the caucus stage, the Arab-American community was sending a message that "we'll vote on the issues, not on electability."
Many in the community, who supported Bush in 2000, in part based on electability, feel betrayed "and don't want to vote for someone who calls our group terrorists," Siblani said. But once the Democratic candidate is elected, he said the community will throw its support behind him.
© 2004 Associated Press