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McAuliffe Favorite for Top Dem Job

February 3, 2001 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe is the overwhelming favorite in Saturday’s election for the leadership of the national Democratic Party despite failing to persuade his top rival, Maynard Jackson, to back out of the race.

Jackson, who became Atlanta’s first black mayor three decades ago, sought to be named second in command of the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe proposed other alternatives, which Jackson rejected. McAuliffe also caused a stir Friday by referring to blacks as ``colored people.″

``The perception is that money solves all the problems,″ Jackson said, questioning whether the Democrats should put their most prolific money raiser in charge of the whole party. ``Is this going to be our party, or a party where a few people with big bucks take over and tell us what to do?″

Jackson contends McAuliffe, backed by allies like President Clinton, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., lined up votes before the race was publicized.

``In order to raise money, you need to be able to articulate our party’s values, organize a talented staff, reach out to engage voters and set your sights and expectations high,″ McAuliffe said. ``These are the same skills you need to be a great DNC chair.″

McAuliffe, in a meeting with state Democratic leaders Friday afternoon, said he would conduct hearings on voter suppression and voter intimidation. He also talked about preventing authorities from using techniques that intimidate ``colored people,″ a comment that caused a buzz from some blacks in the crowd.

``What he meant to say was `people of color,‴ McAuliffe spokeswoman Jenny Backus said. ``But he flipped the words in a sentence about voters’ rights and voter intimidation.″

McAuliffe promised to triple the size of the DNC communications and research operations and provide rapid responses to Republican moves.

``We need to tell George W. Bush, `we’re coming after you,‴ said McAuliffe, who also pledged to help states recruit congressional candidates and update their technology to get out the vote.

During morning meetings, the Democratic resolutions committee unanimously defeated a proposal to continue the system of two chairs: a national chairman, the business job currently held by Joe Andrew, and a general chairman, the political job now held by Ed Rendell. Some Democrats had suggested Jackson could take the general chairmanship.


Many Democrats now say the two-chair system is unworkable with Republicans in control of the White House, because the national Democratic Party needs to speak with one voice.

Jackson met with McAuliffe on Wednesday and Thursday and proposed the role of ``executive co-chair,″ essentially the number two at the DNC, working full time to organize the party at the local and grass-roots level.

McAuliffe rejected the suggestion and made two counteroffers: Jackson could become chief of the party’s newly formed Voting Rights Institution, leading the efforts at electoral reform, or take a newly created slot as one of the party’s six vice chairs. He dismissed both.

``I want to work at restoring and rebuilding our roots,″ Jackson said. ``And I want to make sure we never write off the South again.″


On the Net:

Democratic National Committee: http://www.democrats.org/index.html