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Clyburn Hopes Candidates Help Cousin

James Clyburn headshot, as U.S. Representative of South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2003.
AP
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said Tuesday that he hopes the battalions of volunteers formed by presidential candidates swinging through this early voting state will help at least one hopeful win office: his cousin, a candidate for state Senate.

"I hope they will be in involved in Bill's campaign," Jim Clyburn said of his cousin Bill Clyburn, a state representative who's running for a promotion in a special election. "He's the Democratic nominee and they certainly ought to be involved."

Jim Clyburn, a black South Carolina Democrat, is a prime endorsement prospect for any Democratic White House hopeful looking to win the primary here early next year. He's long been a powerful advocate for blacks, who accounted for nearly half the Democratic primary voters in 2004.

But Jim Clyburn has said he'll stay out of the presidential primary endorsement business in this early voting state. On Tuesday, he said any help thrown to his cousin doesn't mean a candidate will get his blessing. "I don't think that means anything," he said, adding he hasn't pushed any candidate to help out.

Bill Clyburn's campaign manager said any help for his candidate's Nov. 6 election could pay dividends in different ways.

"It wouldn't be a bad thing for them to help the majority whip's cousin," Phil Bailey said. Meanwhile, that involvement "gives the presidential campaigns a dry run for the big show in January," he added.

In August, 50 volunteers for Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's presidential run turned out to help Democrat John West in a state Senate special election, said Bailey, who also was West's campaign manager.

The August effort involved sending some of the campaign's volunteers out to encourage people to vote, said Obama campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis. "It was a good opportunity for the volunteers, some of whom had never taken part in an Election Day canvas, to get a feel for what we'll be doing in January."

Bailey said volunteers for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd also pitched in for West, who lost his bid. West declined an interview request and Bailey said West isn't endorsing a presidential candidate.

Lachlan McIntosh, Richardson's South Carolina campaign manager, said it's common for presidential candidates to support local candidates.

That showed up in GOP politics last year. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney poured cash into GOP races through their political action committees. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called Republican voters from the state GOP's headquarters.

There is a twist for candidates getting involved in Bill Clyburn's race. Bill Clyburn was one of the first state legislators to sign on to John Edwards' 2004 White House bid and he's on board this time, too. "I'm not going to walk away from him unless he says that's OK," Bill Clyburn said.

The Edwards campaign is happy for any help other campaigns may offer Bill Clyburn.

"We're always happy to have another campaign help our endorsers," said Edwards spokeswoman Teresa Wells. "They're even welcome to volunteer for Edwards."

Bill Clyburn said he doesn't mind the help candidates already have provided, including recognizing him or spending time with him at their events. On Saturday, he spent time with Obama. A few weeks ago, he was with Richardson at campaign events.

But the presidential candidates aren't sending cash. "They haven't given me a dime," Bill Clyburn said.