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Saturday, January 31, 2004
Clark, Dean Rally N.M.; Others on Their Way
By Michael Coleman
Journal Staff Writers
Fresh from a congenial debate and scrambling toward a seven-state vote, the Democrats who want to be president fanned out Friday, with two landing in New Mexico and two more on the way today.
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark chose a hotel ballroom in Santa Fe to announce his intention to funnel $2.2 billion from oil and gas royalties into a conservation trust fund that would help to buy wild land, preserve historic places and build neighborhood parks.
"Under George W. Bush, we've got a president who is running a stealth attack on the environment," Clark said. "He's trying to destroy the protections we put in the place."
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean dropped in at a rally at the Expo New Mexico grounds Friday night to fire up about 1,000 Deaniacs and to pick up the endorsement of Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuwart Paisano, who said Dean would be a friend to Indian country.
And Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who plans to be in Albuquerque on Sunday, sent another political heavyweight to New Mexico in his stead. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., tried to rally votes for Kerry on Friday evening at a Disabled American Veterans club near Downtown Albuquerque.
Kerry got warm words from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at the Kennedy rally, although Richardson said he cannot formally endorse a candidate because he is chairing the Democratic National Convention in July. Richardson also was scheduled to attend the rally for Dean on Friday night, a Clark rally in Mesilla today and a Sen. John Edwards' town hall meeting today in Albuquerque.
"I am here to pay tribute to a great American John Kerry," he said. "You can feel the momentum of Sen. Kerry, can't you? Electability is very important. What can you say about a man who has been a hero in Vietnam, who has been a hero in the Senate?"
The rush of candidates and their supporters leads up to the Tuesday caucus in which New Mexico Democrats, and Democrats in six other states, will be among the first voters in the nation to weigh in on who should represent the party in the presidential election.
Eight names are on the ballot here, six of the seven major candidates who are still in the race; Dick Gephardt, who dropped out of the race; and longshot Fern Penna.
With Clark and Dean here Friday night, Kerry on his way Sunday and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Edwards of North Carolina in Albuquerque today, only Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is skipping New Mexico this weekend. But he'll be in Albuquerque on Monday.
Lots of goings-on
All the attention has given interested Democrats more than enough to do this weekend.
In Santa Fe, Clark drew a crowd of several hundred in a tight ballroom at the Inn at Loretto and announced the local endorsements of former Lt. Gov. Roberto Mondragón, state Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero and Santa Fe Mayor Larry Delgado. Former Santa Fe resident and "Cheers" bartender Ted Danson warmed up the crowd.
And, with former Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca, who also served as director of the Bureau of Land Management, Clark criticized the environmental record of the Bush administration.
Clark's plan would put $570,000 to purchase holdings in the Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico for public recreational use and put $1 million toward buying land within the Vallecitos River watershed in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico.
Clark painted himself as a political outsider who can restore openness and good sense to the White House.
"I want to bring a higher standard of leadership to America," Clark said. "Leadership that is good for the whole and not captive to special interest groups. I'm not a politician, but I think what's going on in Washington is too important to be left to the politicians.
"I'm not running to bash George W. Bush; I'm running to replace him," he said.
In Albuquerque, Dean supporters crowded into the Leon Harms Youth Hall on the Expo New Mexico grounds to await Dean's arrival his first visit to New Mexico since November.
Paisano, the five-term governor of Sandia Pueblo and a key adviser to Richardson on Indian affairs, said he's for Dean because Dean understands American Indians.
"I know that Governor Dean shares many of the same values as my people of the Pueblo of Sandia," Paisano said, "advancing the cause of youth; caring for our elders; ensuring equal opportunity; providing quality health care; creating jobs by building basic infrastructure; and planning for future generations."
Kennedy, a longtime icon of the Democratic party, has worked his political mojo in this state before.
Kennedy in 1982 helped Richardson win a New Mexico congressional seat for the first time. In Albuquerque on Friday night, he drew a rowdy crowd of about 300 and said, "We have a president who said he was going to do more, and he failed in that commitment. Whether you talk about education, whether you talk about health care, whether you talk about prescription drugs (Kerry is) the man to take this on."
Kennedy's support played a big role in Kerry's surprise Jan. 19 victory in the Iowa caucuses and his ensuing Jan. 27 victory in the New Hampshire primary, according to Kerry's campaign.
"He was very effective in Iowa and New Hampshire," said Bill Burton, communications director for Kerry's New Mexico campaign. "New Mexico seems like a place where Sen. Kennedy is well-liked."
Kennedy, who campaigned for Kerry in Arizona earlier Friday before flying into New Mexico, will attend another rally for Kerry today in Española.
Kerry is slated to be in Albuquerque on Sunday to watch the Super Bowl, though details on that have yet to be released. He is also scheduled to speak at a rally at the University of New Mexico on Monday.
Journal staff writers Colleen Heild and Leslie Linthicum contributed to this report.