Monday, July 19, 2004

Byrd says Kerry needs coal dust on hands to win W. Va.

Political notebook

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - John Kerry can win West Virginia's five electoral votes by going there and getting coal "dust on his hands and on his face," the state's senior senator said Sunday.

Also, said Sen. Robert Byrd, history's second longest-serving senator behind the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, "Always, always remember that sovereignty rests, John Kerry, sovereignty rests with the people of this country."

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Byrd was asked whether Kerry can win West Virginia, a state Democrat Al Gore lost to Republican George W. Bush by 6 percentage points in 2000.

"I'm the son of a coal miner. I married a coal miner's daughter. I know a lot about coal," said the 86-year-old Byrd, whose Senate career began in 1959, the year before John F. Kennedy's evocation of the plight of the West Virginia coal miner helped him win the presidency.

"Yes, coal is a dirty energy source, but look what we're trying to do. We're trying to clean it up. I've appropriated money over the years for coal research to make it cleaner," Byrd said.

"Yes, he can carry West Virginia. He will carry West Virginia if he continues to stand up for the liberties of the people," Byrd said.

"I've talked with him. I've told him he should go to West Virginia. He should shake hands with the people. He should be at their level and get a little coal dust on his hands. Get some of that dirty dust on his hands and on his face and live in spirit with the working people of this country, the coal miners. And always, always remember that sovereignty rests, John Kerry, sovereignty rests with the people of this country."

The Kerry campaign reaffirmed the candidate's commitment to the state's miners and pointed out that he has proposed spending $10 billion to improve clean coal technology.

"John Kerry saw firsthand the work of the miners of West Virginia when he went down in a mine in the spring, and he received the endorsement of Cecil Roberts and the UMW (United Mine Workers). His commitment to these workers is personal," said campaign spokesman David Wade.


MARCH ON: Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is urging delegates to next week's Democratic National Convention not to be deterred by picket lines by city police officers unhappy about working without a labor contract.

In the letter sent over the weekend, Menino said the pickets are informational and not an official strike line.

Police have promised to picket next Sunday at each of the 29 delegation welcome parties, as well as at other events Menino attends for the July 26-29 convention.

"It's a right they have, but it shouldn't stop anyone from coming to the convention and having a good time, especially at the delegation parties," Menino said in an interview Sunday.

Menino, the official host of each of the welcome parties, sent his letter a week after the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association sent delegates a missive of their own. The union's letter asked delegates to respect their picket lines and to boycott the parties, along with the mayor's address to the convention at the FleetCenter.

"It's very shortsighted by anybody to take that letter they got from the patrolmen's association at face value," Menino said Sunday. "It was a self-serving letter."

Union officials derided Menino's attempt to depict their effort as something less than an official picket line.

"This is a picket line - it's an economic picket line," said Jim Barry, the association's legislative agent. "What does Menino know about a picket line anyway? He's never walked one."

The 1,400-member police union has been without a contract for just over two years. The union is demanding a 17 percent pay increase over four years, while Menino has offered 11.9 percent.

Police picket lines temporarily halted construction at the convention site last month and deterred hometown son and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry from addressing the U.S. Mayors Conference in Boston, which Menino hosted.

Leaders of at least six state delegations have said they will not cross picket lines to attend the official welcome parties. Menino says that will only harm the small businesses hired to put on the parties.

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