- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

Democrats are looking to the center for their politics and out West to find new leadership for the party.

Democratic state party chairmen will meet in Orlando, Fla., this week to discuss opportunities and strategies for 2006 and to listen to “about a dozen” prepared speeches from candidates bent on running the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Donna Brazile, party strategist and former chairman of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, said the only thing the party should do is “focus its energies on rebuilding from the bottom up.”

John Wertheim, chairman of the New Mexico Democrats and member of the Association of State Democratic Chairs, agreed.

He added: “My personal perspective is we need to have a chair who is very attentive to the ability of the party to succeed and prosper in the West, the South and especially rural parts of the country.”

Among the short list of possible candidates to lead the party are former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former Clinton administration Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano of California, and Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, who lost his re-election bid.

Some Democrats say they are uneasy about the possibility of a Dean or Ickes chairmanship because they are too far left politically and could try to take the party with them.

Colorado Democratic Chairman Christopher T. Gates said the direction is definitely West and center.

“I don’t think the answer for the party is to move farther to the left. I think the victories we had here in Colorado reflect that,” he said.

Although he wouldn’t say who he favored for the position, he did say Mr. Webb would be a solid candidate.

“Wellington Webb is certainly one of a dozen people looking at running for chair, and I think he is the former mayor of a growing city and from the West, where we all think the future of the party is.”

Mr. Gates said the party’s job and that of the chairman should not include setting ideology.

“Our job is to win elections. It’s the candidates who should be the ones setting their own platforms and ideas and standing for something,” he said.

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