- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003


Wesley Clark’s campaign manager quit yesterday in a dispute over the direction of the 3-week-old Democratic presidential bid, the latest setback for a team struggling to mesh its Internet-savvy founders with a corps of Washington insiders assuming more power.

Donnie Fowler, 35, told associates he was leaving over widespread concerns that supporters who used the Internet to draft the retired general into the race are not being taken seriously by top campaign officials.

Mr. Fowler also complained that the campaign’s message and methods are focused too much on Washington, not key states, said two associates who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

From the start, there has been tension between the campaign’s political professionals and the draft-Clark supporters, many of whom consider Mr. Fowler their ally.

But those concerns were played down by campaign officials, who suggested that Mr. Fowler quit after losing a power struggle.

Mike Frisby, a former spokesman for DraftClark2004.com and an adviser to the Clark campaign, said the political team has made an “earnest effort” to work with draft-Clark backers.

“There’s always different frictions and different tensions that take place in any campaign,” Mr. Frisby said. “I don’t think what’s taking place is any different than what happens in any other campaign.”

In a brief statement, Clark campaign Chairman Eli Segal said Mr. Fowler “has done an outstanding job of getting our campaign off the ground … . General Clark and all of us at the campaign are grateful for his efforts. We wish Donnie well and hope we will find ways to work together as we move forward.”

Mr. Fowler, involved in his fifth presidential campaign, ran Al Gore’s field operation in 2000. He is one of several veterans of the Clinton-Gore political campaigns involved in the Clark bid. They include Mr. Segal, communications adviser Mark Fabiani, policy adviser Ron Klain and adviser Mickey Kantor.

Mr. Segal moved to Arkansas this week, giving him more hands-on control of the campaign. In addition, Clark adviser Dick Sklar has taken on more authority in recent days. Campaign officials said the moves may have been a source of some friction with Mr. Fowler.

The Fowler departure is the latest blow for a campaign that has gotten off to mixed reviews.

National polls put Mr. Clark near the top of the crowded field and he raised more than $3 million in the first two weeks of his campaign, a sum that surpassed what several rivals raised in three months.

But he has been criticized for flip-flopping on whether he would have supported the Iraq war resolution, and his past ties to the Democratic Party have been weak. Mr. Clark voted for Presidents Reagan and Nixon, praised both Bush administrations and had not registered to vote as a Democrat in his home state of Arkansas before entering the race.

The high number of Clinton-Gore officials on his campaign, including Arkansan Bruce Lindsey, has caused speculation that the former president is quietly pushing Mr. Clark’s campaign, a charge strongly disputed by the candidate and Clinton associates.

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