- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. Ground zero for Republicans in Palm Beach County is a shabby, three-room storefront between Ink Link Tattoos and Montal's Upholstery.

Local Democrats have it much better: an expansive, fully staffed headquarters with cable television in a relatively upscale Delray Beach strip mall, sharing the plaza with a police storefront and an engineering firm, among others.

While a legal stew decides the merits of a manual recount of the Nov. 7 presidential vote, both parties are furiously lobbying people all over Florida and the rest of the country to come to this community to lobby, demonstrate and convince the world that their side is the right one.

Democrats could appear to have an edge, thanks to labor unions.

"A lot of them came from around the country," said Monte Friedkin, chairman of the county's Democratic Party. "They had finished volunteering [at home] and came down here."

The disparity between the parties here indicates the power of each. In this mostly Democratic county, it is easy to see where the dollar power lies.

But Democrats are reluctant to tout their strength in Palm Beach County.

"It is a Democratic county," conceded Dan Pfeiffer, standing outside the county's Democratic offices. Behind him, volunteers continued yesterday to take affidavits from voters who swear that they voted for the wrong person, for two persons or for no one at all.

Part of the Republican argument against the hand recount is that the procedure has been or is proposed only in Democratic strongholds in Florida, where partisan balance is nearly equal.

Jerome Weiss filed an affidavit yesterday that said "maybe" he voted for Mr. Buchanan, an idea he finds repugnant.

"I was rushed," said the New York native. "I didn't think about it until I got home."

The Democrats' office in Delray Beach is off limits to the media for unknown reasons. Outside, in the shade of a terra cotta overhang and surrounded by palm trees, five tables are set up for people to file their affidavits.

Although volunteers from attorneys to clerical help have come from all over the country to aid Democrats here, party executive director Peyton McArthur insisted yesterday, "The election should not be decided by who can sway public opinion."

A note perched on a table inside the headquarters advised of a rally yesterday: "Count our votes: Gather with other concerned citizens 1 p.m. at emergency management center … No Signs!"

While Palm Beach Republicans tend to be a wealthy lot, their party's office is not as plush as the Democrats' headquarters. One exception is a temporary office suite set up by the Bush camp in a 16-story bank building near downtown.

Like the Democratic headquarters, the Bush office in West Palm Beach is a secretive place. The sign-in sheet as of 2 p.m. yesterday had just one name. Opened Tuesday, the Bush office is a strategy planning center that is strewn with new fax machines, phone lines and memos.

"It's a place we gather," said Tucker Eskew, who is handling the media for the Bush team here. "It's for attorneys; we have some volunteers and a couple of staffers."

But for the local Republicans, headquarters is adorned with a bed sheet with "Bush/Cheney" spray-painted on it. A sign announcing their rally that drew around 800 persons yesterday reads: "Call people."

Volunteer coordinator Jeanette Wright oversees the party's helpers, a crew that swelled to about 100 during the heat of the campaign. For her, the campaign is over, but the election isn't.

"You understand that they brought in all these Democratic lawyers, they are highly organized and ready to fight," said Miss Wright. "We're just trying to get our own voice out here, and it isn't always easy."

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