- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Message from a group of Howard Dean supporters to John Kerry: Pick the one-time presidential candidate as your running mate or face a floor fight at the Democratic National Convention.

The National Draft Dean for VP Committee has not contacted either Mr. Dean or Mr. Kerry about its efforts, but it expects to approach the former Vermont governor before Democrats gather in Boston for their convention July 26.

“Howard Dean shifts the dynamics of the race,” said Michael Meurer, co-chairman of the draft committee, who argued that Mr. Dean on the ticket would stop progressives from voting for independent candidate Ralph Nader.

Mr. Dean has shown up on few, if any, lists of serious contenders for the vice presidential nomination. Members of the draft committee say they believe their efforts to persuade Mr. Kerry through petitions to choose Mr. Dean will prove futile. So they came up with the idea of forcing a vote at the convention.

“We’re gearing up for and we’re resigned to a floor fight,” Mr. Meurer said.

At least 300 delegates have to sign a petition to put such a question before the convention. Organizers claim they’ve already got 350 firm commitments from delegates to sign on and indications of support from another 150. They declined to release their list of names.

For the effort to be viable, organizers believe they need 600 to 750 delegates and are hoping for as many as 1,000, Mr. Meurer said.

“We’ve got three weeks till the convention. I think we can come up with the numbers,” he said.

Describing himself as an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Kerry, Mr. Dean said in a statement released by his Democracy for America advocacy group that he is not encouraging the group and urged his supporters to do the same regardless of Mr. Kerry’s choice for a running mate.

“I also trust him to pick a vice-presidential nominee that will best serve the Democratic Party and the country,” Mr. Dean said. “The only way for true change to happen in America is to support Sen. Kerry for president and I urge my followers to do the same.”

Mr. Meurer said members of the draft committee support Mr. Kerry, but they think important issues won’t be addressed or will be ceded to Mr. Nader if Mr. Dean is not on the national ticket.

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