Jackson withdraws from race for DNC chairman

Saturday, February 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson withdrew Saturday from the race to lead the Democratic National Committee, clearing the way for fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe to become the party's new chairman.

McAuliffe, a close friend and ally of former President Clinton, already was the overwhelming favorite to win the post when the committee voted later Saturday.

Only Friday, McAuliffe had failed to persuade Jackson, Atlanta's first black mayor, to quit the contest and ended a simmering intraparty battle that had led the DNC's 90-member Black Caucus, representing about 20 percent of the committee's total membership, to make a late endorsement of Jackson.

Jackson, who earlier failed to sell McAuliffe on the idea of ``executive co-chair'' of the DNC, will serve as chief of the party's new Voting Rights Institute, according to a joint statement issued Saturday. Jackson previously had rejected McAuliffe's offer of leading that enterprise and Democratic efforts at electoral reform.

``We are a unified party with one mission and I look forward to working closely with the DNC under Terry's tenure,'' Jackson said in the statement. ``I look forward to continuing the focus I began in my campaign on rebuilding state parties, election reform and ensuring that no voter and no state is left behind.''

McAuliffe said he and Jackson are ``committed to moving this party and this country forward, together.'' He said that Jackson, in his new role, will use his skills as an organizer and advocate to ``help us move forward on the single most critical issue facing all voters _ ensuring that every vote is counted.''

Even both Jackson bowed out, McAuliffe was promising to challenge the Bush White House at every turn and help equip state parties with the resources needed to win elections and regain control of Congress.

``We need to tell George W. Bush, `We're coming after you,''' said McAuliffe, who also pledged to help states recruit congressional candidates and update their technology to get out the vote.

The 43-year-old McAuliffe, known for his upbeat personality and enthusiasm, assured that he could do far more than raise money for the party _ though he's best known as the Democrats' leading fund-raiser.

``In order to raise money, you need to be able to articulate our party's values, organize a talented staff, reach out to engage voters and set your sights and expectations high,'' McAuliffe said Friday. ``These are the same skills you need to be a great DNC chair.''

Jackson had contended that McAuliffe's skills as a money raiser may not translate into the kind of skilled leadership and grass-roots organizing the party needs.

``The perception is that money solves all the problems,'' Jackson said Friday, questioning whether the Democrats should put their most prolific money raiser in charge of the party. ``Is this going to be our party, or a party where a few people with big bucks take over and tell us what to do?''

Late Friday night, the DNC's Black Caucus endorsed Jackson, saying in a statement that members were angry over the way McAuliffe was handpicked before other candidates had a chance to campaign.

Jackson had contended McAuliffe, backed by allies like Clinton, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., lined up votes before the race was publicized.

Jackson met with McAuliffe on Wednesday and Thursday and proposed the role of ``executive co-chair,'' essentially becoming No. 2 at the DNC, working full time to organize the party at the grass-roots level.

McAuliffe rejected the suggestion and made two counteroffers: Jackson could become chief of the party's voting rights group, and help lead efforts at electoral reform and take a newly created slot as one of the party's six vice chairs. Jackson dismissed both before announcing his withdrawal.