Volume 73, Number 40 | February 04 - 10, 2004



V.R.D.C., D.I.D. back Kerry

By Lincoln Anderson

Two Downtown Democratic political clubs endorsed John Kerry for president within the past week, becoming the first Manhattan Democratic political clubs to throw their support behind the Massachusetts senator’s surging candidacy.

The Village Reform Democratic Club laid claim to being the first political club in the borough to endorse Kerry.

Eighty-eight percent, or 15, of the V.R.D.C. members attending last Thursday’s meeting at Greenwich House on Barrow St. backed Kerry, one voted for former Vermont governor Howard Dean — Howard Hemsley, who has been volunteering on the Dean campaign — and one voted for Senator John Edwards.

Speaking on behalf of Kerry were Congressmember Carolyn Maloney — who went to New Hampshire twice to campaign for him — and former Public Advocate Mark Green.

“Don’t just vote to send a message, vote to send a president!” Maloney told V.R.D.C., citing Kerry’s record on the environment and homeland security. “The tide has turned,” Maloney said, “and I believe that V.R.D.C. is but the first of many Democratic clubs in Manhattan who are rallying to John Kerry’s candidacy.”

Ray Cline, a V.R.D.C. vice president, said, “V.R.D.C. has news for Howard Dean’s hired operatives, who were so smugly describing New York as the ‘firewall’ that would assure his inevitable nomination: the ‘firewall’ is made of kindling, and it’s going up in flames.”

Cline was Richard Gephardt’s New York City director, until Gephardt dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses.

On Monday night, over 50 members of Downtown Independent Democrats showed up at the Puffin Room Gallery in Soho for the club’s presidential endorsement vote. Kerry received 22 votes, with Dean coming in a distant second with eight, followed by three for Edwards, two for Dennis Kucinich and one for Joe Lieberman.

(Only 36 members voted, because some had to leave before the vote, which occurred almost two hours into the meeting.)

Former State Senator Catherine Abate spoke for Kerry and former Assembly candidate and gun-control advocate Jesse Velona made a surprise appearance to speak for Edwards.

Sean Sweeney, D.I.D.’s president, said, “Kerry won by a landslide…. It was very interesting, there were two older D.I.D. members in their 50s who were Dean supporters and who worked on McGovern’s campaign. One of them changed to Kerry because he said he saw the same thing happening as in the McGovern campaign — that he burst early, but he was going down in flames and he was very ideological.”

Sweeney said that there had been strong support in the club for both Dean and Kerry — Kerry’s sister, Peggy, was the local Democratic state committeewoman before Rachel Lavine — but that he personally liked Clark for his intelligence — a big asset against Bush, he noted — and his military background as NATO’s top commander.

“There’s a pragmatic wing, Clark; an ideological wing, Dean; and a favorite-son wing, Kerry, because of Peggy Kerry,” Sweeney had said of D.I.D.’s breakdown, before the club’s vote.

However, despite V.R.D.C.’s and D.I.D.’s endorsements, there hasn’t been a sweeping Downtown swing to Kerry yet. Also, V.R.D.C. is hardly Downtown’s most powerful club, having been on the wane in recent years. Over the last eight years, the club has been unable to elect a local Democratic district leader and an effort a few years ago to spread into the East Village and Lower East Side still hasn’t panned out.

Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, a Manhattan political club with a strong Downtown presence, came out early for Dean. Brad Hoylman, president of GLID, planned to lead a group up to New Hampshire to campaign for Dean the weekend before the primary, but ended up not going because their driver couldn’t make it. Yet, while Dean has lost his frontrunner status and maybe even the nomination after his Iowa meltdown, Hoylman said Dean has reinvigorated the Democrats.

“He’s given our party a spine again,” Hoylman said. “He’s reenergized the party single-handedly, no matter who the [winning] candidate is.”

Dean probably has the most support among local politicians, counting among his supporters Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Tom Duane, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, City Councilmember Christine Quinn, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and about 20 other councilmembers.

Although Village Independent Democrats’ membership is still split and hasn’t come to an endorsement, Chad Marlow, V.I.D.’s president, said he personally likes Kerry.

“I have been a steadfast Kerry supporter from the get-go,” he said. “It wasn’t looking too good for a while, but I’m glad we got things turned around.”

Regarding Hoylman’s planned trip to New Hampshire for Dean, Marlow made a joking reference to “The Titanic” and laughed, “wrong bus.”

After winning election in September, Village District Leader Keen Berger emphatically announced that a “Beat Bush” platform was central to her agenda. So far, though, it hasn’t been easy picking a candidate, she said recently, noting she was still deciding between Dean, Kerry, Edwards and Clark.

In a recent interview, Councilmember Margarita Lopez said she still hasn’t endorsed. “I think we need to know more about the positions of the candidates,” she said. Yet, Lopez feels the excitement and competitiveness of the Democratic field of candidates is positive any way one looks at it and has put “passion” back into the presidential race.

“This is good for the party, good for the process — the process working itself out in front of the eyes of the voters,” Lopez said, assuring, “You will see me endorsing pretty soon.”

Asked about Dean’s famous Iowa “YEAARGH!” scream, Lopez said she couldn’t really judge it, noting that in fairness, “you had to be there.”

Lopez, who supported Bill Bradley in the last election, said this time, “the people” will choose the winning candidate, as opposed to four years ago, when, she charged, the political establishment was pushing for Al Gore.

Some Democrats who have never voted for a Republican presidential candidate in their lives are thinking the unthinkable. One former Democratic district leader, who spoke strictly on condition of anonymity, confided he was strongly considering voting for Bush, noting, “What he’s done has changed the whole situation in the Middle East.”

To win the Democratic nomination, a candidate needs to win the votes of 2,161 electoral delegates. Pundits are predicting the date when one of the candidates will have the nomination sewn up.

Speaking at New School University recently, Senator John McCain said the Democratic winner will be decided by March 2, when there are 10 primaries, including New York’s; former Senator Bob Kerrey, New School president, predicted it will all be over by March 10, possibly March 9.

McCain, who ran four years ago against Bush in the Republican primary, said he was concerned about how “compressed” the primary elections have become — with 16 elections loaded into the two “super” primaries at the front end of the race — so that if a candidate doesn’t win in the first few primaries, it becomes “impossible to catch up.” He also said he was troubled by the excessive influence big media wields on the elections.

The Arizona senator predicted the Internet will soon by used for voting, and marveled at how personal computers are shaping the elections. (About half, or 100,000, of the people who were on his Internet list from his campaign remain active members, he noted.) But, by the same token, he also warned of dire unforeseen ramifications of the Internet’s use in politics.

“All of it can’t be good,” McCain said. “The Industrial Revolution was not all good.”

As Kerry’s campaign continues to pick up steam after his back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, some are under the impression the New School’s Kerrey has endorsed him.

However, while it’s true prominent gay activist Fred Hochberg, former deputy administrator of the federal Small Business Administration and newly appointed dean of New School’s Milano Graduate School, is backing Kerry, New School’s president is not (at least not openly).

Brian Krapf, Kerrey’s spokesperson, said Kerrey won’t be endorsing in the Democratic primary, first of all, because he’s friends with many of the candidates and, second, because he feels that as a member of the 9/11 Commission, it would be inappropriate.

Brice Peyre, a V.R.D.C. member and former president of Stonewall Democrats, a gay political club, will be on the March 2 New York primary ballot running as a delegate for Kerry. Peyre said he’s the only openly gay delegate candidate running in Maloney’s 14th Congressional District.


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