- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003


John Kerry’s communications director has resigned over differences about the direction of the Democrat’s presidential campaign.

Chris Lehane’s departure comes amid speculation of a wider shake-up in the Kerry campaign, which has been torn by internal fights and a lack of public support for the candidate.

Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts senator once considered the leading contender in a nine-person field, has seen his campaign eclipsed by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

“John Kerry is a great American,” Mr. Lehane said in a statement confirming his resignation. “He has assembled a great team to take on George W. Bush and I wish him the best of luck as the campaign goes forward.”

Mr. Lehane was a key adviser and spokesman for the campaign, though he was not on the payroll. That move was planned later this fall. He resigned last week.

Campaign officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Lehane told them he was leaving over philosophical differences with Mr. Kerry.

They said Mr. Lehane, who was Al Gore’s press secretary in the 2000 race and worked for President Clinton, was among a cadre of Kerry aides who believed that Mr. Kerry ran too cautiously against the threat posed by Mr. Dean.

Campaign strategist Bob Shrum and others urged Mr. Kerry to remain above the fray in an attempt to look presidential. Mr. Kerry avoided confrontation with Mr. Dean in the first two debates, but his rhetoric in the campaign appearances has become more critical of the former governor.

Mr. Dean leads Mr. Kerry in the latest polls in New Hampshire, an early voting state that neither candidate can afford to lose. His front-runner status lost, Mr. Kerry recently dropped out of contention for at least one key union endorsement and is scrambling to shore up support in Congress and among party donors.

Though Mr. Kerry has insisted he is satisfied with his team, his less-than-firm denials of a shake-up have fueled rumors and created angst among his staffers.

Early this month, as he formally began his campaign, Mr. Kerry told reporters he “reserved the right” to make changes and gave a mixed assessment of his staff’s performance. Trying to quell talk of a staff purge, he issued a statement saying there would be “no changes.”

The statement, drafted with Mr. Lehane’s assistance, was meant to be the last word, but Mr. Kerry has backpedaled from it. “Those weren’t precisely my words. They were the words of a press release sent out,” Mr. Kerry told the Boston Globe in a story published Sunday.

Several campaign sources said at the time that Mr. Kerry read and approved the document.

Mr. Kerry also told the Globe he would add people to “plug holes,” but declined to be specific.

Campaign officials said there are long-standing plans to broaden Mr. Kerry’s team, particularly with allies from Massachusetts with presidential campaign experience, but that’s not necessarily an indictment of his current team, headed by campaign manager Jim Jordan.

Mr. Jordan said of Mr. Lehane: “He would’ve been a hugely valuable addition to the staff, and we’re all disappointed. We’ll plug the hole soon enough.”

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