- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

Wooing Hart

Gary Hart, who decided against joining the Democratic presidential race this year, is being asked by national and Colorado Democratic leaders to make a 2004 Senate run against GOP incumbent Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

“I’ve had several conversations with him about it,” said Chris Gates, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. “A lot of us in Colorado and Washington would love to see Gary take this race on. He’s listening.”

Details about talks between Mr. Hart and the Democrats were first reported by the Denver Post on its Web site Saturday.

A former U.S. senator from Colorado, Mr. Hart sought his party’s nomination for the White House in 1984 and 1988. This year, he weighed a campaign from January to May while delivering policy speeches and meeting with Democratic activists across the country.

A challenge from Mr. Hart would not alter Mr. Campbell’s strategy, his spokeswoman, Cinamon Watson, told the Associated Press.

“He’s definitely running for re-election, and he’ll probably make an official announcement and tour the state early next year,” she said.

Mr. Campbell was elected to the Senate in 1992 as a Democrat but switched parties in 1995.

Mr. Gates said other high-profile Democrats — including Reps. Diana DeGette and Mark Udall, state Attorney General Ken Salazar and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb — also have been asked to consider a run.

Some Democrats, including Colorado Springs educator Mike Miles, have announced bids for Mr. Campbell’s seat.

A 10th podium

“Democratic officials preparing for the New Mexico primary debate Sept. 4 are so confident that retired Gen. Wesley Clark plans to join the race they’re adding a 10th podium to the dais,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“Word in party HQ is that the former NATO boss will announce his decision Labor Day on whether to get in or bow out. If he joins the other nine candidates, officials say, he’ll immediately become ‘top tier.’”

In your face

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said yesterday the only way his party could beat President Bush next year was “to be in the president’s face.”

The former Vermont governor, who appears to have captured hearts on the left wing of his party, saw no need to moderate his tone or his message despite warnings that he would lead the party back into the “political wilderness,” Reuters reports.

“I think my message is a centrist message and is where most Americans are,” he told reporters aboard his aircraft on a profile-raising coast-to-coast political swing. “I don’t expect Democrats or Republicans to accept that yet.”

On his first foray into presidential-style travel, Mr. Dean ventured close to the press section of his aircraft — a ‘60s-era Boeing 737 chartered from Casino Express Airlines based in Elko, Nev. — before going in to face reporters.

Mr. Dean expressed surprise at his surge in popularity and his success at fund raising. Polls show him leading his eight Democratic opponents in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first contests of the 2004 presidential election season will be held in January.

“I thought I’d be struggling at 5 percent, hoping to light a fire in Iowa and New Hampshire. I started out as a classic insurgent,” the candidate said.

“We have to be in the president’s face to win,” Mr. Dean explained as he held court in the narrow aisle of the ancient aircraft dubbed the “Grassroots Express” and decorated with sprigs of plastic greenery.

Don’t move on

Texas Senate Democrats in self-imposed exile in New Mexico are getting a hand from an Internet-based fund-raising effort that raked in $870,000 in its first four days, supporters said yesterday.

MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, describes its “Defend Democracy” fund-raiser as a “hard-hitting ad campaign to fight back in Texas.”

Its goal is to raise $1 million to help the 11 Democratic senators who fled to Albuquerque, N.M., on July 28 to fight a Republican-led redistricting plan. The plan likely would give Republicans a majority in the state’s congressional delegation, now dominated 17-15 by Democrats.

The fight over the plan drew national attention in May when 50 House Democrats fled to Oklahoma and successfully thwarted the plan’s passage during the regular legislative session by denying the chamber’s Republican majority the minimum number of legislators needed to take action.

The Republican governor called a special session to reconsider the plan, and the House was able to pass it in June. It still needed Senate approval, however.

By leaving the state, the 11 Senate Democrats so far have denied the GOP-dominated Senate a quorum, and the current 30-day special session ends tomorrow. Gov. Rick Perry has promised to call another special session if necessary.

MoveOn.org, founded by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs during the Clinton impeachment, says it has a nationwide e-mailing list of 2 million people.

Glenn Smith, a political consultant representing the group’s Texas effort, said almost 27,000 people, but only about 2,000 from Texas, have contributed, the San Antonio Express-News reported Saturday.

Willie and Dennis

Country singer Willie Nelson hooked up with Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich on Saturday to help the Ohio Democrat pitch his plan to help family farmers.

Mr. Kucinich, who is facing eight others in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he wants to end agricultural monopolies, including banning meatpacker ownership of livestock, and require country-of-origin labeling on agricultural products to help farmers compete in a market that he said continues to crush them.

“A president, if he is going to protect the family farmers, is going to need to break up some of these agricultural monopolies that make is impossible for family farmers to survive,” Mr. Kucinich said at a news conference before a rally in the eastern Iowa city of Dubuque.

Mr. Nelson, founding performer and president of Farm Aid, the annual concert that raises money for family farmers, praised Mr. Kucinich’s commitment to rural America.

“Finally, we have a guy who is standing up for the small family farmer,” Mr. Nelson said at the rally. “Agriculture, our raw materials, are what we need to take care of. There’s a way to do that, a way to make it strong again, and Dennis knows the way to do that.”

Mr. Nelson plans to put on a concert for Mr. Kucinich in Iowa, where precinct caucuses launch the presidential nominating season, the Associated Press reports. That concert was postponed from September until later in the fall. Another concert is scheduled for Cleveland.

Singing for taxes

“American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard, known as “The Velvet Teddy Bear,” will perform two free concerts in his native Alabama on behalf of a tax referendum backed by one of his biggest fans, Gov. Bob Riley.

The 8,800 free tickets for the Sept. 2 concert in Mobile ran out in 30 minutes, and 10,000 were distributed in 17 minutes in Birmingham for a Sept. 5 concert in Mr. Studdard’s hometown. Mr. Studdard’s band, Just a Few Cats, and comedian Ced Delaney also are scheduled to perform, the Associated Press reports.

The “Believe in Alabama” concerts were organized to promote the Republican governor’s tax increase proposals on the Sept. 9 ballot.

However, Mr. Studdard has yet to say whether he endorses Mr. Riley’s proposals.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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