Cummings backs Dean for president

Baltimore Democrat lauds candidate's views on race

December 14, 2003|By COX NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA - Howard Dean came to Atlanta yesterday to unveil his latest major endorsement in the race for the presidential nomination: Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"He has made it abundantly clear that race is not some foreign word and something he is afraid to address," Cummings said. "He's made it very clear that he wants to see one America."

Cummings made his endorsement at the southwest Atlanta home of former Sen. Leroy Johnson, Georgia's first black legislator in the modern era.

Dean and Cummings were flanked by more than 20 Democratic legislators and county and city officials who support the former Vermont governor, who picked up the endorsement of former Vice President Al Gore last week.

Earlier, a crowd of some 200 supporters greeted Dean when he arrived at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field. Most of them are grass-roots volunteers who have been attracted to Dean's campaign through the Internet and because of his outspoken criticism of the Bush administration.

The Gore endorsement has caused more established Democrats to sit up and take notice of Dean, considered the front-runner for the nomination.

One indication of that yesterday was Dean's other Atlanta appointment - a fund-raiser at the home of former state Democratic Party Chairman Ed Sims. Dean reportedly collected more than $150,000.

Speaking to reporters in the living room of Johnson's home, Dean said Republicans were beginning to mount a campaign resembling the race-based "Southern strategy" of previous years.

"Now they talk about gay marriage, and they talk about guns. They talk about anything they can talk about, except the things that matter to anybody in Georgia no matter what color they are, and that's jobs, education and health care," Dean said.

Also yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported a new poll showing that Dean has emerged as the leading presidential choice among Democratic Party leaders, with more than twice the support of his closest rivals.

Dean was favored by 32 percent of the Democratic National Committee members surveyed, followed by Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri at 15 percent and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts at 14 percent.

Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark had 7 percent support; Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, 5 percent; Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, 3 percent; and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, 1 percent. Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich and the Rev. Al Sharpton each had less than 1 percent backing.

The Democratic National Committee consists of roughly 450 local and state party leaders. The Times poll interviewed 327 DNC members. The survey began Dec. 4 and ended Thursday.

On Monday, during the course of the poll, word surfaced that Gore would endorse Dean the next day. The nod from Gore appears to have benefited Dean among these party insiders.

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