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Rand Paul Continues Appeal to African-Americans

CINCINNATI, OHIO - Sen. Rand Paul continued his outreach to African-Americans, urging policy changes that would reduce the number of black men in prison and restoring the voting rights to convicted felons in a speech at the annual convention of the National Urban League here.

“I won’t sit idly by watching our criminal justice system continue to consume, define and confine our young men,” Paul told the audience of black leaders on Friday. “I say we take a stand and fight for justice now.”

For Paul, who is strongly considering a presidential run, the speech was part of his broader effort to appeal to black voters, who are traditionally very Democratic. Over the last year, he has taken a series of stances few others in his party have embraced, to the delight of black leaders. The Kentucky Republican has called for giving judges greater ability to reduce prison sentences for non-violent drug users and lessening the harsh sentences that users of crack cocaine receive.

“This will be our first time hearing from Senator Paul, but we hope it won’t be our last,” said Marc Morial, the head of the National Urban League, in introducing Paul.

Paul’s appearance here, Morial said, was the result of a meeting the two had earlier in the year. Paul is courting black pastors and other leaders in what he has openly said is an attempt to get more African-Americans to support Republicans. More than 90 percent of blacks backed Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

In his speech, Paul spoke candidly about race, in a way few politicians of either party do.

“Our prisons are bursting with men of color,” he said,

The crowd of about 100 activists greeted him warmly, unlike an appearance at Howard University, where the senator faced hostile questions from some students."

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