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NRA Campaign Escorts Decried

September 15, 2002|From Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Republican candidate for Congress is offering campaign volunteers extra protection for their visits to immigrant neighborhoods: escorts from the National Rifle Assn.

Democrats said the offer by the campaign of incumbent Rep. Robert "Robin" Hayes is an insult to residents, and they held a rally Saturday.

"A representative in Congress should not be afraid of the district they represent," said Mecklenburg County Democratic Chairman John Cotham, one of about 15 people who turned up in the rain to protest. "That's the most insulting comment I've heard a politician ever make about his constituents."

In an e-mail sent Thursday to Republicans in the county about a campaign gathering, Hayes' campaign managers said volunteers need not fear.

"NRA members will cover neighborhoods that might be uncomfortable for some volunteers," the e-mail said.

Hayes campaign manager Richard Hudson later conceded that the message may have been insensitive, and he said he hoped the NRA escorts would not be carrying guns.

"I could understand, going back and reading it, that it could have been worded better," Hudson said, adding that the campaign's main concern is fast-moving traffic, not crime.

An aide to Hayes' Democratic opponent, Chris Kouri, said Kouri's volunteers have never had problems in Charlotte's low-to middle-income eastern neighborhoods.

"We've knocked on doors in this neighborhood," said the aide, Paul Blank. "We've had women and children go door to door too."

The volunteers went without NRA escorts, he added.

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