- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

The four remaining candidates on the District’s Jan. 13 presidential primary ballot will hold a number of events this week to present themselves to voters, although the favorite is former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who might not be around.

“I think Howard Dean is clearly first, the Rev. Al Sharpton second, and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Rep. Dennis [J.] Kucinich of Ohio flip-flopping between third and fourth,” predicted Lawrence Guyot, a 30-year veteran of civil rights and political activism in the District.

Donna Brazile, chairman of the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute, said she also sees Mr. Dean having an edge in the primary.

“I talked with Al Sharpton today, and he intends to campaign vigorously and has mentioned voting rights at every turn in his campaign. But there is no question that Howard Dean is ahead,” she said.

Miss Brazile said voter turnout would be key, an issue that is causing friction between national Democrats and local party activists.

“If it is a low voter turnout, Dean will probably win because of his strong grass-roots campaign in the city,” she said. “But if participation is high, it could be a close race.”

The District’s Democratic party chairman, A. Scott Bolden, said Mr. Dean could lose the vote if he fails to appear in the city this week.

“Ranking candidates is unscientific, and as far as I’m concerned, the race is wide open and I would not take a single vote for granted,” Mr. Bolden said.

The District’s mostly Democratic city council moved the primary up to Jan. 13 in March of last year. Although the D.C. Democratic State Committee voted against the move, they struck a deal with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to hold the primary before New Hampshire’s and the Iowa caucuses as long as it was nonbinding with no delegates up for grabs.

Five of the nine major presidential candidates — Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, and Wesley Clark — asked to be left off the ballot, not wanting to break tradition and be shunned by the DNC, whose rules will not allow any jurisdiction other than New Hampshire to go first.

The Washington Times reported last month that state committee members were worried that the primary could be a flop because of minuscule voter turnout.

Mr. Guyot said yesterday that he thinks the DNC does not want Mr. Dean gaining momentum with a win in the District and is seeking to minimize the primary’s profile by giving it little publicity or resources. He also accused the local Democratic Party structure of helping bury the city’s primary.

“The party is not working for a good turnout. If you really look at it, it is the activists and council members and elections board officials working hard to get people to the polls,” he said.

But Mr. Bolden said those comments were absurd.

“Ironically, it would seem the party is taking more of a responsibility for getting out the vote than was originally anticipated, considering we voted against it,” he said.

Radio, print, and TV advertising is ready to go, Mr. Bolden said. The local party also has hired Chris Benjamin, through a contract with Miss Brazile’s company, as a consultant and communications director to handle media inquiries. Mr. Bolden said his party also has enlisted volunteers from labor unions to operate phone banks.

Political activist Sean Tenner of the D.C. Democracy Fund, a think tank advocating D.C. voting rights and statehood, said the primary already has succeeded regardless of who wins or what the turnout is.

“We have 250 pages of media articles from across the country on D.C. voting rights because of the primary, and getting that attention was the primary goal,” Mr. Tenner said.

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