- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2003

Five Democratic presidential candidates have pulled out of the 2004 D.C. primary.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Wesley Clark sent letters to the D.C. Board of Elections yesterday asking that their names be removed from the ballot.

The move frustrated local Democrats, who called the candidates “losers” and said that the primary is better off without them. The D.C. primary is Jan. 13.

“This action is as much about their inability to win here in January as it is about their lack of commitment for voting rights for the District of Columbia,” said A. Scott Bolden, chairman of the D.C. Democratic Party.

“This latest action only validates the importance of the Jan. 13 primary, because when put to the test, these five candidates have cut and run, and now we all know they weren’t the right ones to begin with.”

The withdrawal leaves former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the Rev. Al Sharpton, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, on the ballot.

All Democratic candidates except for Mr. Kerry have said they will participate in the D.C. Caucus, which will take place Feb. 14.

None of the five candidates who withdrew from the ballot yesterday showed up for the Kennedys-King Dinner, the local party’s major fund-raising event that was held Nov. 1. Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Gephardt pulled out of the dinner three days before the event, Mr. Bolden said.

The letters sent to the Elections Board by Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Kerry are dated Nov. 6. The letters sent by Mr. Clark, a retired Army general, and Mr. Edwards are not dated.

All five candidates cite Democratic National Committee Delegates Selection Rules “10A and 12H,” as their reason for not participating in the D.C. primary. The rules prohibit any caucuses, conventions or primaries before the traditional first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mr. Gephardt told The Washington Times in February that he would not violate DNC rules.

“We said all along that this is not a DNC-sanctioned primary and we won’t violate the rules,” a spokeswoman for the Gephardt campaign said yesterday.

Telephone messages left at the campaign offices of the other four candidates who withdrew were not returned last night.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said the candidates have made a poor decision. Mr. Evans said city officials had worked with the DNC to ensure that the primary complied with all party rules.

“Not only have three of the candidates — Lieberman, Gephardt and Kerry, who all live here — disrespected their hometown, they’ve disrespected African Americans.”

Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Kerry own homes in Georgetown.

The District is more than 60 percent black and about 85 percent of the city’s registered voters are Democrats. It is regarded as a Southern city in presidential elections.

“It was gutless the way they did this as a team, and it represents why they are dead last in the polls,” Mr. Evans said.

Mr. Evans said he and council member Vincent Orange, Ward 5 Democrat, will draft a bill to put the five candidates back on the ballot, “because our residents deserve a fair and open primary.”

Mr. Evans and seven other Democrats on the 13-member D.C. Council have endorsed Mr. Dean. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has not committed himself to a candidate.

Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat who endorsed Mr. Dean, said the absence of the five candidates won’t matter.

“I always find it funny when these guys who are losing pull out,” Mr. Fenty said. “They weren’t going to win anyway, and they weren’t campaigning here. And it is indicative of what they think about the District and urban issues in general.”

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