Jeffries: Clinton is better on African-American issues, like gun control

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Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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On Wednesday morning, after the Rev. Al Sharpton met with Bernie Sanders at Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem, two of the Vermont senator's black New York surrogates described him as the only choice for African Americans in the Democratic primary.

Sanders has “the only racial justice platform of anybody running for president,” said Benjamin Jealous, the former president of the NAACP, who was joined by fellow Sanders surrogate Bill Perkins, the state senator representing Harlem.

Later in the day, Hillary Clinton rolled out some prominent African-American supporters of her own.

On a telephone call with reporters, U.S. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn said Sanders’ rural-state record on gun control should render him unpalatable to African American voters

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“We know that gun violence is the leading cause of death for young African American men, more than the next nine leading causes of death combined,” Jeffries said. “That’s shameful.”

Clinton, meanwhile, has “consistently stood up against the gun lobby,” Jeffries said.

Clinton lost the New Hampshire primary badly on Tuesday and in advance of upcoming primaries in the more diverse states of South Carolina and Nevada, the Clinton campaign and its allies are drawing attention to issues they think will resonate with voters of color.

"For the last 40-plus years, Bernie Sanders as mayor, as a member of the House and as a member of the United States Senate, has been missing in action on issues of importance to the African-American community," Jeffries said. "He's a new arrival at the dance." 

On the same call, South Carolina's House minority leader, Todd Rutherford, said he was supporting Clinton because she is “the only one that will accomplish what needs to be done for the African-American community.”

Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, said “Senator Sanders hasn’t really had to think hard about these issues,” because there are so few African Americans in Vermont.

In an ensuing question-and-answer session, a reporter pointed out that Sanders participated in the 1963 March on Washington.

Dukes was unimpressed.

"There were many people participating in that march, so what [does] that mean? We are not a one-issue campaign here."

A spokesman for Sanders had no immediate comment.