Dean launches action committee

Democracy for America to spread his politics at local, state, national levels

March 19, 2004|By Matea Gold and Lynn Marshall | Matea Gold and Lynn Marshall,LOS ANGELES TIMES

SEATTLE - Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose roller-coaster presidential bid dominated the early months of the 2004 campaign, returned to the public stage yesterday to launch a new organization formed in the spirit of his insurgent candidacy.

Democracy for America, which shares the same initials as Dean's now-defunct campaign, will be a political action committee dedicated to spreading the former governor's brand of politics at the local, state and national levels.

In a speech before an enthusiastic crowd here, Dean promised to soon endorse Sen. John Kerry, but said his group would have a broader mission beyond electing a Democratic president.

"The truth is, there is only one man who can beat George Bush, and that man is John Kerry," he said. "And I intend to do everything I can to put him in the White House, but that is not enough."

Dean said Democracy for America would function as a sort of incubator for candidates who share a commitment to what he called "progressive values" - expanding health care and early childhood education, promoting fiscal responsibility in government, and ending the influence of moneyed special interests.

The group will be a political action committee. Roy Neel, who served as Dean's campaign manager in the final weeks of his campaign, will temporarily run the organization. Dean will serve as its unpaid chairman.

Dean called it "a strong grass-roots organization dedicated to putting the strength back in the Democratic Party." The group will work to elect Democrats to Congress, and support the members who backed Dean's presidential bid.

But it will primarily focus on cultivating people to run for local offices such as school board, city council and county commissioner, the former governor said in an interview.

The PAC will provide candidates with a "Campaign in a Box" toolkit and Web site consulting, he said, noting that it was a technique the Republicans have used effectively.

"Ten years ago, [former Christian Coalition President] Ralph Reed began this process of trying to move people into local positions, and he was very successful in doing that, which is why the country has moved so far to the right," Dean said. "We want to move it back."

Kerry's campaign said it looks forward to working with him. Spokeswoman Laura Capps called him "a strong partner."

Matea Gold reported from Washington, D.C., and Lynn Marshall from Seattle. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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