- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

Wilder about Dean

Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat who is now mayor of Richmond, thinks Howard Dean’s accession of Democratic National Committee chairman tomorrow will be a positive development for the party.

“I talked to Howard Dean the other day and I think he’s going to be all right,” Mr. Wilder told The Washington Times. “That’s going to be interesting to see how that plays.”

Mr. Wilder, who knew Mr. Dean when the latter was lieutenant governor and governor of Vermont, said he never considered the man “so far out” from the mainstream.

“I never considered him liberal. I never considered him so far out,” Mr. Wilder said. “I think once he got running for president, because he was opposed to the war, that attached to him. And that will be difficult for him to get away from.”

Levin’s blockade

The nomination of Circuit Judge Michael Chertoff to head the Homeland Security Department stalled this week on questions regarding an FBI memo that outlined interrogation techniques for Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Administration officials say Judge Chertoff’s name is not on the memo. However, Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, wants all of the names made public before voting on the nominee.

“The FBI says that Chertoff’s name is nowhere on the memo. This is an issue that is unrelated to Judge Chertoff or his qualification for the job,” said one Republican Senate staffer.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Levin said the senator has not placed an official hold on the nominee, but is leading efforts to release the information.

Judge Chertoff’s nomination was approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee without a no vote on Monday night. Mr. Levin voted present.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and ranking committee member, agreed to let a vote by the full Senate go forward Tuesday, but Mr. Levin’s request stalled the vote, which now is expected Tuesday.

Judge Chertoff was named to replace Tom Ridge, who vacated the post on Feb. 1.

“It is not right that the vote on Chertoff’s confirmation is being held up and that DHS is being left without a new leader because of an unrelated issue. As the committee vote showed, Judge Chertoff has broad bipartisan support in the Senate,” the Republican staffer said.

Florida candidate

Rep. Jim Davis, a Democrat, said yesterday he will run for governor of Florida in 2006 to replace outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican.

Mr. Bush, the younger brother of President Bush, is in his second term as governor and is prevented by state term limits from seeking re-election.

Mr. Davis, a 47-year-old congressman from Tampa, is in his fifth term as a member of the House. He will give up a safe House seat to seek the Democratic nomination, Reuters news agency reports.

“It’s time to open the doors in Tallahassee and let in the people of Florida,” Mr. Davis said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “We need a governor who will put the needs of our families ahead of narrow partisan interests so that Florida can move forward.”

Other potential Democratic candidates include Betty Castor, a former state education commissioner who narrowly lost a U.S. Senate race to Republican Mel Martinez last year; state Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox; and Lawton Chiles III, the son of former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Likely Republican candidates include Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher, the state’s chief financial officer.

Fear factor

Some House Democrats favor Social Security reform but are afraid of retribution by party leaders, a Republican legislator said.

Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, was asked at a Cato Institute conference in Washington Wednesday whether he had persuaded any Democrats to back his plan to rescue Social Security from its financial troubles, Allan H. Ryskind reports at www.humaneventsonline.com.

Under Mr. Ryan’s legislation, no new taxes would be needed to pay for “transition costs,” participation in the new system would be voluntary and workers would be allowed to divert a portion of their payroll tax into a mutual fund.

A questioner from the audience, stressing his own Democratic credentials, said Mr. Ryan’s plan should attract members of his own party and wondered whether the lawmaker from Wisconsin had secured any Democratic sponsors. Mr. Ryan said he had been working with friends on the “other side of the aisle” who were favorable toward his solution, but he faced an enormous problem: intense pressure on his colleagues from the minority leadership.

“We were in planning stages” with friendly Democrats, Mr. Ryan said. But each essentially told him: “I like what you’re doing. I like this bill. I think it’s the right way to go. But my party leadership will break my back. The retribution that they are promising us is as great as I have ever seen. We can’t do it.”

Mr. Ryan said he thinks the only thing that can assure passage is an outpouring from America’s grass roots.

Hillary out front

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton leads the pack of likely 2008 Democratic presidential candidates, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, while former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is tops among Republicans.

Three years away from voting in primaries and caucuses, Mrs. Clinton is favored by 40 percent of Democrats, while last year’s nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and his running mate, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, trailed with 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

USA Today said the popularity of the senator from New York is historic in that no other female candidate has had such a serious chance of winning a major party’s nomination for the presidency.

On the Republican side, Mr. Giuliani won the popularity contest with 34 percent, followed by Sen. John McCain of Arizona with 29 percent and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with 12 percent. Mr. Bush, brother of the president, has said he will not run for president in 2008.

Franken’s decision

Comedian and Democratic activist Al Franken has ruled out a run for a Senate seat from Minnesota next year.

“Not running for the Senate in 2006,” he told reporters and his Air America Radio audience. “Minnesotans are very serious about their politics and it would be silly. I don’t live there.”

Mr. Franken, who has written several books satirizing conservatives and is perhaps best known for his performances on the NBC program “Saturday Night Live,” said he had committed to two more years at Air America Radio, a liberal talk show network.

“I have been looking at the 2008 Senate seat, people know that,” he said. “If I go in 2008, you’re going to see me moving back there.”

Mr. Franken, who grew up in Minnesota, had been mentioned as a candidate for the seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton, a Democrat who announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election next year.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]gtontimes.com.

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