U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama stirred controversy in his recent visit to Detroit involving the city’s mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.  Obama was set to speak at a Detroit Economic Club on Monday when he made a routine call to connect with the mayor before the speaking engagement. 

The exchange between the two was strained, according to the Detroit Free Press.  During the phone call, Mayor Kilpatrick asked the senator if he would be comfortable standing in public next to a 6ft 4in black man.  Obama responded that he would be just fine, as long as Kilpatrick removed his diamond stud earring.  The exchange is apparently stemming from the fact that the senator’s campaign has been known for its broad based cross racial appeal versus taking on what’s considered primarily “black issues.”  In fact, he has faced criticism by some African Americans on this matter.  Additionally, he is the first African American presidential candidate to run on a platform that is not solely based on an urban agenda. 

The camps of the two men quickly put a backspin on the conversation and announced the two were only joking, are very supportive of each other and were eager to meet in person. 

Later, at Sen. Obama’s speech, the Mayor took great pains to reassure everyone that the relationship between himself and Sen. Obama is a positive and strong one.  During his introduction, he even went as far as complimenting the senator by comparing the Obama’s ability to bring enthusiasm to his supporters to that of John F. Kennedy’s back in the 1960 campaign.  Sen. Obama reciprocated by calling Mayor Kilpatrick a “leader not just here in Detroit, not just in Michigan, but across the country.” 

Mayor Kilpatrick has not officially endorsed a presidential candidate and had recently noted that Senator Hilary Clinton and John Edwards are the only Democratic candidates who have shown any concern about an urban agenda.  We have yet to see if his strong and positive relationship with Obama is enough to garner his support.

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