Push: Democratic presidential candidates, united in their efforts to derail President Bush, turned their attention to a major voter group on Sunday at the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 32nd annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition forum. As they addressed issues from affirmative action to foreign policy, the liberal candidates pointed fingers at the more moderate candidates in an effort to find the perfect party message to defeat Mr. Bush in 2004, USA Today reports.
"We have too many elephants running around with donkey jackets on," Rev. Al Sharpton told the audience. "We need Democrats to be Democrats and stand up for what Democrats used to stand up for."
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean echoed the liberal message saying again, "We are not going to beat George Bush with Bush Lite." The remarks highlight a division among Democrats over what message will attract the most voters in the next election. Some argue that the party should target core voters, including minorities, liberals and feminists, while others point to Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and encourage a centrist candidate.
Either way, the seven candidates used the 90-minute forum to appeal to Jackson and the mostly black audience for support. According to the New York Times, Sharpton and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun were particularly popular with the audience, while the other candidates vied for attention. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., recalled an African American soldier who served as a turret gunner and probably saved his life in Vietnam. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., noted his efforts to register black voters in Mississippi during the civil rights movement, and several of the candidates quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In response to a question, Dean recalled a trip to Africa, while Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., both said they would sign executive orders, if necessary, to reverse Supreme Court decisions on the University of Michigan and protect affirmative action.
Jackson urged the Democratic candidates to pursue a "Southern strategy" to win back states Democrats lost in 2000. "We must not write the South off, it is the key to the emancipation of the whole country and the preservation of the Union," Jackson said.
But the two candidates from the South missed the forum and the opportunity to court Jackson's endorsement, which he said will come "no time soon." Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., had a scheduling conflict and Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who was slated to attend, had unexpected personal business in Florida, his spokeswoman told the Times.
Gray Stands Alone: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., officially removed her name from consideration as an alternative to California Gov. Gray Davis in a possible recall election. Feinstein was the last in a line of Democrats to declare she will not partake in any efforts to oust Davis. According to the L.A. Times, Feinstein asserted her commitment to her Senate seat as reason for staying out off the ballot. "I'm a U.S. senator, and I am seriously involved in what I do," she said.
With Feinstein's announcement, the Davis camp breathes a sigh of relief. Democrats worried that if Feinstein, arguably California's most popular Democrat, appeared on the ballot, some Davis voters might swing to her. Strategists also contend that a united Democrat front creates the best odds of defeating any recall. Citing the need for Democratic unity, last week Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, and Attorney General Bill Lockyer also denounced the recall and declared that their names would not appear on a recall ballot.
However, that doesn't rule out some new candidates. Liberal activist and director Rob Reiner's name has been thrown in the mix. "You're going to have a menagerie of candidates who look at this as a free shot," said Garry South, a longtime political strategist for the governor now working for U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman's presidential campaign told the Sacramento Bee. . "You could be the governor of California the next day, when no one has ever heard of you, when you've never run statewide before."
Proponents of the recount will report their progress collecting signatures today to the California Secretary of State. They need 900,000 valid signatures to get the recall on the ballot. If recall supporters are able to submit enough ballots by mid-July, it is highly likely that the special election would be held in the fall. If, however, they need until the final deadline for a recall during Davis' term - Sept. 2 - it is more likely that the special election would be held in March 2004, on the same date as the Democratic presidential primary. Davis' advisers are hoping the signature-gathering will drag into the fall.
Rep. Darrel Issa has invested $800,000 in the drive to collect the necessary signatures for the special election and is the only announced Republican candidate. However, both actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and last year's losing Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bill Simon, have flirted with the idea of running as well.
All In The Family: If you're a Nevada business and you're looking for a little help, it seems like Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his family are the go-to guys.
The Los Angeles Times reports that members of Reid's family, including three of his sons and his son-in-law, work on behalf of virtually every industry in Nevada. Reid's office says there's no impropriety here and the legislation they've lobbied for benefits Nevada more than the Reid family.
"In every instance, Sen. Reid acted in the best interest of Nevada and Nevada's economy," said Reid's chief of staff Susan McCue.
Reid adds that he's not the only one on Capitol Hill with family lobbying connections; there are at least 17 senators with children, spouses or other relatives who lobby or work as consultants, according to lobbyist disclosure reports.
"Lots of people have children, wives and stuff that work back here," Reid told the Times. "It is not as if a lot of cash is changing hands."
The Times used "The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002" as the example of how the influence of Reid's family got things done in the Senate. The bill was sold to his colleagues as a bipartisan bill to help the environment in Nevada. But included in the bill were several windfalls to Nevada corporations – who had hired Reid relatives to push for the legislation.
The Howard Hughes Corporation paid $300,000 to Reid's son-in-law Steven Barringer's firm. One provision in the bill benefited a real estate development run by the senior partner in a Nevada law firm that employs Reid's four sons. The cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson were also helped by the bill – all three were represented by Reid's family members.
The Times also mentioned legislation sponsored by Reid over the years that benefited the University of Nevada at Reno, the Nevada Mining Association and the state's mining companies, and the American Gaming Association, all who had hired Reid family members to lobby for them.
Shortly after the Times talked to Reid, the vice chairman – and former chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee - about this story last fall, he decided to ban relatives from lobbying his office, but not their entire firms.
"I have done, I think, everything I can to protect myself and to protect my boys," he said.
"The only thing I could do to help myself is to have less kids."
Political Week Ahead: With the June 30 reporting deadline approaching rapidly, many of the presidential candidates spend serious time trying to raise serious money this week. (One campaign guaranteed to rake it in, of course, is Team Bush-Cheney, which has fundraisers slated by the president, vice president and first lady.) There are two candidate forums on the calendar, the League of Conservation Voters in LA on Thursday and one next weekend in Phoenix hosted the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
Mon. 6/23 – Howard Dean's official announcement in Burlington, Vt.
Mon. 6/23 – John Kerry will have breakfast with Johnson County Democrats in Coralville, Iowa.
Mon. 6/23 – President Bush will hold a Bush/Cheney fundraiser in New York.
Mon. 6/23 – Vice President Cheney will host a Bush/Cheney fundraisers outside of Boston and in Richmond, Va.
Mon 6/23 – Dick Gephardt fundraiser in New York, headlined by singer Barry Manilow.
Mon. 6/23 – Bob Graham will host two fundraisers in Miami, Fla.
Tues. 6/24 – Graham will host a fundraiser in Holmes Beach, Fla.
Tues. 6/24 – Dean attends Young Professionals Meet and Greet Event in Washington, D.C.
Wed. 6/25 – DNC "President's Dinner" in Washington.
Wed. 6/25 – First Lady Laura Bush will host Bush/Cheney fundraisers in Philadelphia and Cincinnati.
Wed. 6/25 – Dean speaks at Council on Foreign Relations and attends DNC dinner.
Wed. 6/25 – Kerry will visit Pembroke, NH for a discussion on jobs and the economy with Precision Technology employees.
Wed. 6/25 – Graham will host a fundraising breakfast in Ft. Myers, Fla. and later travel to Washington for DNC dinner.
Thurs. 6/26 – Carol Moseley Braun, Dean, Graham, Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton attend League of Conservation Voters/California League of Conservation presidential candidate forum in Los Angeles.
Thurs. 6/26 – Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader address the "Rising Democracy" meeting at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
Thurs. 6/26 – Bob Graham will host a fundraiser in Los Angeles at Tom Safran's home.
Fri. 6/27 – President Bush will host Bush/Cheney fundraisers in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Fri. 6/27-6/28 – National Assoc. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) annual meeting in Phoenix. Several Bush administration Hispanic officials, including White House Counsel Al Gonzalez, attend keynote luncheon on Friday. Graham and Lieberman meet with attendees on Friday. "Meet the 2004 Presidential Candidates" on Saturday featuring Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt, Kucinich and Sharpton.
Fri. 6/27 – Dean speaks to the City Club Group, San Diego.
Fri. 6/27 – Presidential nephew George P. Bush attends "filibuster buster" rally on Capitol Hill organized the Committee for Justice, a conservative activist group headed by George H.W. Bush's White House Counsel, Boyden Gray. The group promotes judicial nominations made by President Bush.
Sat 6/28 – Florida Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Gov. Richardson and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to attend.
Sat 6/28 – Graham keynotes Tennessee Democratic Party's Jackson Dinner.
Sat. 6/28 – Graham will host a media event and later a fundraiser in Nashville, Tenn. Adele Graham will host a campaign reception in Hollywood, Fla. and then speak at the Jefferson/Jackson Dinner.
Sat 6/28 – Dean campaigns in Sante Fe, N.M.
Sat. 6/28 – DSCC fundraiser featuring Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., in San Francisco.
Sun 6/29 – Dean attends various campaign events in Lebanon, Concord, Manchester, and Dover, New Hampshire.
Sun. 6/29 – Kerry will attend Washington State Democratic Party's Annual Albert D. Rossellini Dinner in Tacoma, WA.
Quote of the Day: "She was so shy she was misconstrued, and also because she wore pretty clothes and was so feminine." - Teresa Heinz Kerry on why she "relates" to Nancy Reagan (Newsweek).