Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) appealed to some of his party's core constituencies in his home town Monday, chiding President Bush at a breakfast for black and Hispanic voters for skipping a gathering of the NAACP in Philadelphia this week, and telling several hundred women at a fundraising luncheon that he shares the values that are central to their lives.
In Roxbury, a Boston neighborhood with a large minority population, Kerry told about 40 local politicians and activists that he "will be a president who meets . . . with the NAACP."
Bush has said he declined the NAACP's invitation to speak on Friday because of a scheduling conflict and because its leaders have been harshly critical of him since his 2000 run for president.
The Kerry campaign also announced Monday that it would spend $1 million on Spanish-language advertisements in 10 battleground states and direct an additional $2 million to black audiences. Some African American leaders have criticized Kerry for paying too little attention to their communities. Bush on Monday began airing radio spots in English and Spanish that targeted the Hispanic community.
State Sen. Jarrett Barrios (D) called Bush, who has courted the growing Hispanic voter population, "another candidate running for president who speaks five words in Spanish and thinks that that's going to get him every Latino vote."
In a lunch speech to more than 1,000 women who had donated $500 to $2,000 to his campaign or the Democratic Party, Kerry was joined on stage by his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and former Texas governor Ann Richards (D). He focused his comments on improving health care and creating more jobs -- notions that he said "are not Democratic values. They're not Republican values. They are American values."
Kerry, who has said he believes that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, criticized Republicans for seeking a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage "for political purposes in the middle of the campaign." Aides said he planned to return to Washington to vote against such a measure; a vote has been scheduled for Wednesday.
"I'm glad he's talking about values because I think there's been a hijacking of these things by Republicans," said Bernadette Orr, 45, of Beverly, Mass.
Kerry also cited "the value of how you take the nation to war." The Democrat, who voted for a 2002 congressional resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq and opposed a bill in October that allocated $87 billion toward U.S. efforts in that country, said that he was "proud" of voting against the funding because "the policy had to be changed."
"We needed other countries involved," said Kerry, who also accused the administration of inadequately equipping U.S. troops before the war. "We needed to reach out to our allies. We needed to put other boots on the ground," he said.
On a day that Bush launched a comprehensive defense of his decision to invade Iraq, Kerry's remarks earned a rebuke from the president's reelection campaign.
"John Kerry's reckless claim to be 'proud' of opposing funds to support the troops is in direct contradiction to his own earlier statement that such a vote would be 'irresponsible,' " Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said in an e-mailed statement. "He voted to send forces into harm's way and then wrongly voted against critical funding for American troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Schmidt added in an interview that some of the $87 billion funding package Kerry voted against was earmarked for equipping troops stationed in Iraq.
Kerry aides said they expected to take in about $5 million from three fundraising events Monday, including an evening concert on the waterfront featuring singers Jackson Browne and Michelle Branch. The 5,000 seats went for $50 to $2,000, and two-thirds of the money will go to the Democratic National Committee, the remainder to Kerry's campaign.
Early in the day, the senator also huddled with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (D), who had criticized Kerry for canceling a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in the Massachusetts capital last month, after a local police union said it would picket the event. Spokesmen for Menino and Kerry would not comment on whether the union issue was discussed.