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Urban Leaguers weigh in on presidential candidates

via @RosalindZAdams

Five of the presidential candidates addressed the National Urban League conference on Friday morning, speaking to a packed crowd who were eager to hear how they would address issues like criminal justice reform and closing gaps in health care and education.

Many of the attendees said they wanted to hear directly from candidates -- and they were still unsure of who they might vote for with the election more than a year away.

"I'm just listening to them all and trying to come up with my opinion. I'm very open at this point," said Jadira Hoptry, who works in financial services and came out to the conference from Fort Myers.

The attendees said over and over that racial and economic disparity issues were one their top issues that they hoped candidates would address.

"We have a crisis in our country that should have been solved at least 50 years ago, which is inequality," said Coreen Norville, 57, of Pembroke Pines. "It's not only in our schools, in banking and in the penal system. In every genre of our society, there is inequality."

She supports Hillary Clinton right now, and liked her speech but said for her it's more about the candidates proving their intentions behind their actions. "I've been around a long time -- I've seen that show before," she said. "I've taken that medicine before, and right now it's extremely bitter for me.

Ben Carson, one of two Republican candidates and the only African American who spoke, tried to dispel rumors that he was against "safety-net" social services, saying he would like to keep these in place but also provide incentives to bring back to the U.S. corporate money now abroad.

Several people found him eloquent but said his economic pitch didn't always hit the right notes.

"I like what that he had to say overall, but I didn't like the economic trickling-down effect, because I don't really think that's going to work,"  Allison Serraneu said.

Clinton got loud applause and cheers. Many of her supporters were out in full force.

"I'm a Hillary supporter," said Dawn Thurston, wife of former state Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation. "Absolutely, 100 percent; it's time for a woman. The men have had their shot, so it's time to give a woman a chance."

But some attendees were skeptical about Clinton and said they'd rather support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Among them was Broward County resident Victoria Olson.

"I lost my home on foreclosure, and he wants to break up the big banks," Olson said. "Until that happens, the banks will continue to destroy this economy, and that's one of the things about Bernie that I think is so important."

Others liked the fact that he is an independent senator, though he's running for president as a Democrat.

"He's the longest-running independent, and to me I think that's what you really need to be a candidate for president: You need a person who looks at the issues, not someone who stands with political parties," said Victor Rodgers of Richmond, Virginia.

Most people, though, were undecided and content with just starting to browse the presidential candidates.

"I think they all did a wonderful job. They addressed some of the issues that are relevant for the black community and particularly for African Americans," said Willowstine Lawson of Miami.

"I have to make a decision," she added. "I have a few months though."