Monday, March 10, 2008

Seeking a Space for Global Poverty in the Public Discourse

Candidatesblog(Originally published in Bread Blog, March 9, 2008)

In this busy electoral season, there are ample opportunties to attend presidential and congressional candidate forums and debates. If you're lucky, there will be a competitive congressional elections in your district in 2008. (We in New Mexico have three seats in the House and one in the Senate up for grabs!).

The fact that the forums are being held does not guarantee that the issue of global poverty will be among the questions presented to the candidates. Often, it is up to us Bread for the World members and like-minded allies to ask the questions.

On March 8, I attended a forum sponsored by the Democratic Women of New Mexico, featuring four of the five Democrats competing in the June 3 primary to replace Rep. Heather Wilson (who resigned to run for the open U.S. Senate seat). The candidates were asked very important questions regarding education and the No Child Left Behind program, the U.S. involvement in Iraq, and the fight for water rights in the west.

But the forum seemed incomplete without the question that I consider as important as all those others:
"Would the candidates support increasing the percentage of poverty-focused development assistance?" Or "What can the U.S. could do to help move us closer to meeting the Millennium Development Goals ?"

Because time was limited, there was no opportunity for questions from the public. Fortunately, I came prepared for that eventuality. I brought my trusty tape recorder and Bread for the World hand-outs about this year's Offering of Letters, and sought each of the four candidates during a break. They were more than willing to answer the questions and all asked for more information. Read more about what they said Bread for the World-New Mexico blog.

What's more important, none of the four candidates knew much about Bread for the World, although they had heard about The ONE Campaign. This was my opportunity to make the connection, to begin a relationship that will be helpful on Lobby Day and on all other occasions when a Bread-supported issues come before Congress. It's very possible that any of these candidates could be occupying the office on Capitol Hill reserved for the New Mexico First Congressional District.

Now I think I'll go to the Bernalillo County Republican website to see if the two candidates seeking the Republican nomination will hold a forum soon. I'll be sure to bring my tape recorder and more Bread hand-outs and ONE white bands.

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