Dean among candidates who visit Missouri seeking to head DNC

Saturday, January 15th 2005, 6:47 pm
By: News On 6

BRIDGETON, Mo. (AP) _ Former presidential candidate Howard Dean said Saturday he will not run for the White House in the next campaign cycle if he is elected to head the Democratic National Committee.

``If I get this position, I'm not running for president in 2008,'' the former Vermont governor said after he joined six other contenders in suburban St. Louis trying to win over party officials from 13 Midwestern states for the DNC leadership job.

They are looking to succeed Terry McAuliffe as chairman of the group.

While Dean led the others in name recognition, each candidate offered a pitch for why he should win the job and what Democrats needed to do to win more elections.

Martin Frost, who served Texas in Congress for more than a quarter century, said, ``We cannot walk away from our base. We cannot walk away from our commitment to civil rights, to a woman's right to choose, to labor's right to organize.''

Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler, whose father Don previously headed the committee, encouraged the party to rethink how it campaigns and to better include those outside of Washington in the decision-making process. ``The DNC does not stand for Do Not Change,'' he said. ``The DNC should stand for Do Not Concede.''

Several candidates touched upon the need for campaigning vigorously in all 50 states, for better articulation of what the party stands for and for better communication between the national efforts and local and state campaigns.

Dean noted, ``I'm not a very Zen person, but I have recognized since the presidential election that actually the way to get power is to give it away, to give people power in their home states to do the things that have to be done and to trust people.''

When another remark by Dean met with loud applause, Simon Rosenberg, a political strategist who often spoke after Dean, said, ``I think in these future forums, I don't want to follow Governor Dean every time.''

While many conversations after the candidates spoke included at least a passing mention of Dean, several of the Midwest committee members said they hadn't yet decided whom to support.

Many offered short lists of three or four candidates whose views resonated with them.

Sharon Stroschein, of Aberdeen, S.D., said she liked the issues Dean raised in the campaign, and said, ``I could see today those are burning issues still with him.''

But she said she was also impressed by the ideas of political activists Rosenberg, who founded the New Democratic Network, and Fowler.

Some committee members noted that President Bush regained the White House in part because he carried several Midwestern states, including Missouri, Ohio and Iowa.

Stroschein said she felt abandoned by the national party in the last election, mentioning she hadn't even known of a contact person in her state for the John Kerry, John Edwards campaign. She wanted a leader who would help that change.

Former Denver mayor Wellington Webb won points with young committee members like LaToia Jones when he suggested involving more young people in the party by offering paying jobs to some rather than always asking them to volunteer.

And former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, who is anti-abortion, asked committee members to base their decision on what he could do to help the party, not on a litmus test. ``I like a good fight, but don't put my arms behind me,'' he said.

Committee member Doug Brooks, of Joplin, Mo., said he didn't think Roemer's message was being well-received by committee members, but he liked Fowler, Frost and former Ohio state Democratic Party chairman David Leland. He said state chairmen are organizers in a strong position to know what is needed at the national level.

Regional meetings are being held this month around the country to allow Democratic committee members to hear from the candidates. The 447 members of the committee will gather to vote on a new leader in February.

The states other than Missouri in the Midwestern caucus included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin.