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Focus on Minority Issues in Iowa

Cathy Hughes, founder and chairwoman of the largest radio company targeted at African Americans in the country, is in Iowa for a weekend of political events focused on minority voters. This afternoon Hughes -- whose company is based in Lanham, MD and operates 60 urban radio stations around the country-- will moderate the Heartland Presidential Forum in Des Moines sponsored by the Center for Community Change, a liberal think tank.

All major Democratic candidates (who are in town for the "Iowa Brown & Black" forum, the nation's oldest minority focused presidential debate) were scheduled to attend the Hughes event but Sen. Hillary Clinton pulled out of the yesterday following a hostage situation at her offices in New Hampshire.

Hughes and a group of community activists, mostly from the first three primary states, will ask the presidential hopefuls about issues such as health care, immigration and agriculture.

For Hughes moderating the forum is a return to her roots as an activist and sometimes rabble rouser on black radio in the 1980s. Her first station in Northeast Washington, DC routinely held politicians and others in power accountable for promises they made to the black community, regularly hosting Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who was then relatively unknown and working as chief of staff for Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Hughes and her callers would pepper Brazile with questions about bills before Congress and push her to get DC residents a vote on Capitol Hill.

"I've matured," Hughes said with a laugh. "I've learned to hold them accountable and be respectful without cutting them off."

Barack Obama, John Edwards and the others who will take the stage with her today certainly hope so.

--Krissah Williams

By Washington Post editors  |  December 1, 2007; 11:02 AM ET
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