Sunday, October 24, 1999

Campaigners stop at New Hope

Church breakfast 23-year tradition

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As the campaign season grinds on, any candidate who thinks voters aren't paying attention should make a trip to the Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Avondale.

        There, in every October election season for the past 23 years, church member Pinkie Williams has organized the candidates' breakfast in the basement that has become, for many in Avondale, the most important campaign event of the season.

        “You really haven't campaigned until you've been to New Hope,” said Mrs. Williams, who, with Pastor Donald Jones, oversees the event.

        Saturday, Mrs. Williams and a crew of church women were at it again, getting up before dawn to cook up mounds of scrambled eggs, sau sage and tubs of buttery grits for the New Hope members and visitors from neighboring churches.

        About 50 people sat at the tables around the church basement, eating breakfast and taking notes as 14 of the 20 candidates for Cincinnati City Council and one of six candidates for Cincinnati school board — Florence Newell — gave their stump speeches.

        When a candidate ventured over the time limit, Mrs. Williams was there to jump up and cut him off.

        The mostly African-American audience mostly votes for Democrats, but, at Greater New Hope they listen politely to all candidates, Republican or Democrat; and, after every candidate has spoken, they line up at the microphone to ask thoughtful questions.

        But the clear favorite at Saturday's breakfast was Councilman Paul Booth, a Democrat and a member of the church. “This is my home,” Mr. Booth said.

        The Rev. Mr. Jones said that most of the people who go to his church are “serious voters, people who are paying attention and want to know the people they're voting for.”

        “They're interested in the issues that are important here in this community — employment, health care, taxes,” the Rev. Mr. Jones said. “They want to know where the candidates stand.”

        Helen Thomas of Avondale has attended the breakfasts since they began 23 years ago and said she “always learns something I didn't know about the candidates.

        “I usually have a pretty good idea already who I am voting for, but it's helpful to hear them all,” she said.

        Clarice White, a church member, said that, in addition to the October candidate event, the church holds breakfasts throughout the year “so folks can get together and talk about issues in the community.”

        Mrs. White is not surprised that most candidates consider the Greater New Hope breakfast a “must.”

        “They all know people in our church are very involved,” she said. “They know if you come out here on a Saturday morning, you're surely going to vote.”


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