State party leaders back Dean for DNC chair

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(Host) Howard Dean’s campaign to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee got a big boost on Monday afternoon. State party chairs from around the country strongly endorsed Dean’s candidacy, making him the front-runner for the post.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The vote of state party chairs is important because the group ignored the advice of its executive committee. That committee narrowly supported one of Dean’s chief rivals, activist Donnie Fowler of South Carolina, for the DNC leadership post.

The full committee of state chairs voted to endorse Dean by nearly a three to one margin. Vermont Party Chair Peter Mallory voted for Dean. Mallory thinks the former governor brings some unique qualities to this race:

(Mallory) “I believe that Howard does bring something special in a number of ways. One, his visibility at the moment is a very positive factor. His articulation of a message about who we are as Democrats and how we must restate our case to the nation is, I think, if not unique certainly very special and very much needed at the moment. He’s also a good leader and a tremendous fundraiser. So there are all qualities that the Democratic National Chair needs to have and particularly right at this moment.”

(Kinzel) Mallory says many party activists are also excited about Dean because they feel he’ll stand up for traditional Democratic principles and policies.

Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says it’s significant that the full group of party chairs rejected the endorsement of their own executive committee:

(Davis) “This is a significant development for Dean’s campaign for DNC chair.”

(Kinzel) Davis says the Democrats will be sending a clear signal if they elect Dean to their top leadership post.

(Davis) “If the DNC does choose Governor Dean as their chair, what I would read that as saying is they believe that the most important thing for the Democratic Party over the next two years is organization building of the type that the Dean campaign perfected during his run for the presidency, which is a lot of grassroots organizing, heavy use of the Internet to mobilize voters, trying to get people who have not been involved in conventional Democratic politics before. It also means pursuing a policy agenda that’s very much a strong anti-Bush agenda.”

(Kinzel) The 447 members of the Democratic National Committee will elect their new chair at their annual meeting on February 12.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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