- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark said yesterday that the former general is not yet a registered Democrat, but that the paperwork to change his registration “has been sitting on his desk for the last couple of weeks.”

Campaign spokeswoman Kym Spell said that Mr. Clark “is a Democrat and he has talked of his Democratic credentials a lot in the last several weeks. A piece of paper doesn’t make you a Democrat.”

Miss Spell said Mr. Clark has not had time to change his party registration since announcing his candidacy on Sept. 17.

Business Week first reported yesterday on its Web site that Mr. Clark was still a registered independent in Pulaski County, Ark., home of his campaign headquarters in Little Rock.

Mr. Clark told the Union Leader newspaper in Manchester, N.H., that he registered as a Democrat “on or about Sept. 3, about two weeks before announcing for the presidency,” the paper reported in a Sept. 27 story.

The Union Leader reporter quoted Mr. Clark as saying that as far as political affiliation, “I wasn’t anything. In Arkansas, you don’t have to register for parties. You vote in primaries, and, of course, I voted in Democratic primaries.”

Mr. Clark has said that throughout much of his military career he voted Republican, supporting both Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Richard Nixon in 1972.

More recently, he said that he did not vote for George W. Bush in 2000, deciding to back Al Gore, but he praised the president at a Republican fund-raising dinner two years ago and enthusiastically supported the president’s tax cuts.

“This was a new administration. I knew a lot of people in this administration,” Mr. Clark explained last week in his first campaign foray into New Hampshire. Now he says that the Bush tax cuts have “made us poor, they haven’t brought jobs.”

Mr. Clark’s Democratic rivals reacted with anger and sarcasm yesterday when told that the former NATO commander was still not registered with his newly adopted party.

“It’s hard to imagine how a longtime Republican can win the Democratic nomination. You can’t beat a real Republican, Bush, with a recently lapsed Republican, Clark,” said Jeff Cohen, spokesman for Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s campaign voiced similar doubts about Mr. Clark’s Democratic convictions.

“There have been a lot of questions raised in the past week about whether Wesley Clark is a real Democrat. I think we got our answer,” said Eric Schmeltzer, spokesman for Mr. Dean.

Several of the other Democratic candidates not only criticized Mr. Clark’s failure to register as a Democrat, but pointed to a recent disclosure in the New York Post that he remains a registered lobbyist for the Acxiom Corp., a Little Rock data-storage company.

“It’s enlightening that he is not a registered Democrat but he is a registered lobbyist and that he thinks that having voted for Ronald Reagan will be an asset in the Democratic primary,” said Robert Gibbs, spokesman for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s campaign.

“There are a number of things that he’s done and said over the past year about the Bush administration, about voting for Reagan and Nixon. It will clearly turn off Democratic primary voters,” Mr. Gibbs said.

Since he announced his candidacy, Mr. Clark’s rivals for the nomination have been attacking him as a hollow candidate with no deep, long-standing convictions on the issues.

“I was fighting [Bushs tax cuts] while Wes Clark was working to forward the Republican agenda by raising money for the Republican Party,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman said last week.

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