- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 22, 2005

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democrats from throughout the West gathered yesterday to interview candidates to lead the Democratic National Committee, including former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose candidacy has come under fire from within the party.

The candidates are competing for the votes of about 430 voting members of the DNC, who will choose the successor to the outgoing chairman, Terry McAuliffe, on Feb. 12.

Numerous party activists turned out to meet the candidates and offer their views on how the party can emerge from minority status.

“This is a war for the survival of the United States as we know it,” Mr. Dean declared at a breakfast meeting with labor leaders and Hispanic activists.

Competing with Mr. Dean were Tim Roemer, former Indiana congressman and September 11 commission member; Martin Frost, former Texas congressman; Donnie Fowler, a party activist; Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network; David Leland, former Ohio party chairman; and Wellington Webb, former Denver mayor.

Mr. Dean, whose fiery anti-war rhetoric captivated millions of activists during his upstart presidential campaign, said he was not concerned that his image as an anti-war, pro-homosexual rights liberal would alienate voters in conservative states and provide fodder for Republican media campaigns.

“My attitude is that they are going to run those ads anyway, so why not go down and stand up for what you believe in?” he said. “How are we going to convince people in Mississippi that their economic interests are the same as ours if we don’t show up? It is incredibly insulting to people.”

Earlier this week, Mr. Dean seemed to be steamrolling to front-runner status in the race, announcing that he had secured the endorsement of several state party chairmen and other voting DNC members.

But that move produced a backlash among other state chairmen and some activists. For example, several Oklahoma Democrats publicly criticized the decision by the state party chairman, Jay Parmley, to endorse Mr. Dean.

“Like most Oklahoma Democrats, I do not believe Governor Dean shares our values or is the right person to lead our party at this time,” said state Sen. Debbe Leftwich, a DNC voting member.

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