Friday, January 16, 2004

Dean's backers organize


Supporters begin his local campaign Thursday

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PADDOCK HILLS - As he has across much of the country, presidential candidate Howard Dean seems to have enamored Southwest Ohio Democrats more than the party's other candidates have.

LEADERS' VIEWS
Who are Southwest Ohio Democrats backing?

Charlie Luken, Cincinnati mayor: Leaning toward Wesley Clark.

Tyrone Yates, state representative, Cincinnati: Dean. "He is a man of great intellect with a great range of experience."

Mark Mallory, state senator, co-chairman, Hamilton County Democratic Party: Dean.

Catherine Barrett, state representative, Cincinnati: Dean.

Dan Gattermeyer, Butler County Democratic Party Chairman: Leaning toward Dean or Richard Gephardt. "I think they would be a great ticket, but I'm not sure that is going to happen."

Catherine Stoker, West Chester Township trustee: Leaning toward Clark. "I think he has the best chance to knock off Bush."

Melvin A. Smith, president of the Butler-Warren-Clinton AFL-CIO: Clark. "President Bush is going to try to wrap himself in the flag. General Clark is the flag."

Alicia Reece, Cincinnati vice mayor: Undecided. "I like (Howard) Dean. I think (John) Kerry is very smart. (Richard) Gephardt has good legislative experience. ... (Al) Sharpton has raised a lot of issues."

Who are some prominent Southwest Ohio Democrats backing in the presidential primary?

Catherine Barrett, state representative, Cincinnati: Dean.

Dan Gattermeyer, Butler County Democratic Party Chairman: Undecided, leaning toward Dean or Richard Gephardt. "I think they would be a great ticket, but I'm not sure that is going to happen."

Catherine Stoker, West Chester Township trustee : Undecided, leaning toward Clark. "I think he has the best chance to knock off Bush, but I'm not sure he'll be the nominee."

Melvin A. Smith, president of the Butler-Warren-Clinton AFL-CIO: Clark. "President Bush is going to try to wrap himself in the flag. General Clark is the flag."

Leading Democrats say Dean, whose supporters began his local campaign Thursday night, is in the best position to capture votes in Ohio's March 2 primary.

"Dean's the only one with a visible campaign right now in this area," said Dan Radford, executive secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO Labor Council in Cincinnati.

"I think that will change. (Wesley) Clark's committee is coming together, and (Richard) Gephardt has the ability to pull something together pretty quickly," said Radford, a seasoned political watcher and activist. "But no one has the visibility of Dean."

Butler County Democratic Chairman Dan Gattermeyer sees much of the same.

"We haven't seen a whole lot from any of them yet, but Dean is doing more than anyone else as far as organizing people," Gattermeyer said. "His campaign is using the Internet to get people to meetings and events."

Leading Democrats say Dean's strong position is the result of several factors:

• The campaign's impressive Internet prowess and presence, which is widely attributed to Dean's early political and fund-raising advantage.

• The media buzz surrounding Dean, who landed on the covers of Newsweek and Time last week. That has helped him achieve his leading position in most polls and fueled the perception he will still be in the race for Ohio's primary.

• Dean's brash style and attitude, which inspires many of the party's young supporters but also alienates others.

Though Dean was not there, his supporters began his local campaign at the AFSCME Union Hall in Paddock Hills. About 20 Dean supporters turned out for a "retire Bush-Cheney party."

"It's the cusp of a new day," said Wes Flinn, 30, of Clifton, a music teacher at Northern Kentucky University.

But other candidates also are starting to organize locally.

The Clark campaign, headed by Covington lawyer Ron Cropper, has been holding organizational meetings, letter-writing campaigns and events to canvass voters.

Bellevue residents Tim and Bridget Vogt, both 26 and social workers, got involved in Clark's Ohio campaign after attending one of those meetings. They are now writing letters, helping plan events and handling the distribution of campaign materials.

Tim Vogt said Clark, a retired military general, "inspires me."

"After 9-11, people are more concerned with their security that with their checkbooks," Vogt said. "Wesley Clark has what it takes to make the country safer and to make people feel safer. His views are progressive and middle of the road, and that's where my views are. And I think he is the candidate who can beat George Bush."

Just last week, Cincinnati trial attorney Richard Lawrence helped Gephardt raise about $100,000 during a breakfast in Louisville and luncheon in downtown Cincinnati.

Lawrence is aware that Gephardt's finish in Iowa will determine if he survives long enough to still be in the race for Ohio's primary voters.

"He needs to do well in Iowa," Lawrence said. "If he does, I think he will get a bounce and do reasonably well in the northeast states, especially if others - like (North Carolina Sen.) Johnny Edwards - go by the wayside."

The same holds true for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, said one of his campaign's Ohio organizers.

So Iowa is where Kerry is concentrating his efforts right how, said Dayton Municipal Court Clerk Mark Owens.

"It's no secret Kerry has to do well in Iowa," Owens said. "If that happens, then I think he can still be around for Ohio"

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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