The Rev. Jesse Jackson preached get-out-the-vote sermons to Pittsburgh audiences Monday, warning them not to become complacent by the recent court victory for critics of the state's voter ID legislation.
"We got excited in 2008 and didn't show up in 2010," he reminded a breakfast crowd in the community center at Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Larimer.
The event, billed as a gathering of community leaders, drew about 150 politicians, activists and members of the clergy. The Rev. William Curtis, the Mount Ararat pastor, said the event had been coordinated by One Pittsburgh, a left-leaning coalition of labor unions and social action groups, including United Steelworkers, Sierra Club, Just Harvest and the NAACP of Pittsburgh. Later in the morning, Rev. Jackson headed across town to the North Side campus of Community College of Allegheny County, where a student-dominated crowd of about 200 heard his appeal to show up at the polls on Nov. 6.
In a brief interview after the breakfast, Rev. Jackson cited the nation's economic struggle for the decline in voter turnout between 2008 and the midterm elections that switched control of the House of Representatives to the GOP.
"President Barack [Obama] inherited a deep hole. President [George W.] Bush inherited a mountain," he said.
While the moderators of the first presidential debate and last week's vice presidential debate have received mixed and often contrasting reviews, Rev. Jackson implicitly criticized both.
"You have a debate in Denver, and you don't mention assault weapons," he said, noting the recent shootings in nearby Aurora, Colo.
"How can you have a debate in Danville, Ky., and the moderator never mentions poverty?" he added.
The Mount Ararat breakfast drew a cross-section of the city's Democratic hierarchy. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl added their get-out-the-vote pitches to Rev. Jackson's message. Listening were at least two potential rivals of the mayor in his re-election bid next year -- city Controller Michael Lamb and city Councilman Bill Peduto.
The veteran civil rights leader and former presidential candidate urged the crowd to consider the battle over the voter identifications laws that have sprung up across the country in the context of the voting rights struggles of the nation's past.
At another point, he added, "The issue of voter suppression has always been there ... we've always had to fight to democratize democracy."
Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562.