- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

Former President Bill Clinton has signed on to help Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s drive to revitalize state Democratic parties across the country.

Mr. Clinton will begin the effort next week, by hosting an April 10 fundraiser for the DNC.

The former president reportedly had doubts about Mr. Dean’s plan, but was convinced of the project’s value and agreed to lend his assistance after a February meeting with the DNC chairman.

Mr. Dean’s initiative will place paid and trained Democratic staffers in all 50 states, including field organizers and candidate recruiters, and will provide training seminars for campaign volunteers. DNC Communications Director Karen Finney confirmed that Mr. Clinton has endorsed the effort and is in regular communication with Mr. Dean.

“There’s no question that having organizers on the ground who are mobilizing and organizing for Election Day eight months ahead of time will help ensure Democratic victories in November and beyond,” Ms. Finney said.

The DNC’s State Party Partnership Program has already hired and trained more than 175 staffers. During 2005, Mr. Dean attended 22 state-party fundraising events, raising more than $1 million for the program. Democratic activists have complained that the national party does not pay enough attention to voters outside of solidly Democratic districts.

Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said Mr. Clinton’s involvement will help the initiative gain “additional credibility, particularly in Washington.”

Mr. Brewer leads the Democrats’ association of state chairmen and says he consults with Mr. Dean on a regular basis.

“Everything has been extremely consultative with the state parties,” Mr. Brewer said.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said he “was never a Dean guy. I supported John Edwards in 2004.”

“But on this initiative, I’m in total agreement,” he said.

Mr. Redfern said the partnership program could make the difference for his party in swing states such as Ohio. “I’m tired of consultants from Washington, New York and Boston telling us what’s best for national Democrats. Howard Dean gets that, and that’s going to pay dividends,” Mr. Redfern said.

Mr. Dean has previously said that he is in part modeling his 50-state program on the Republicans’ own grass-roots model and intends to make Democrats more competitive in conservative states.

Dan Parker, who is chairman of the state party in conservative-leaning Indiana, called Mr. Dean’s plan “a great program for a state like ours because we never received help from the DNC.”

“Howard Dean is the first DNC chair to visit our state in a long time. It’s great for morale,” he said.

And Mr. Parker said he thinks Mr. Clinton will be an effective counter to Mr. Dean’s critics.

“There’s no bigger star in our party,” he said of Mr. Clinton. “I think it could have a significant impact.”

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