Members Fill DNC Roster

Posted July 14, 2004 at 6:55pm

By Mark Preston Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is leaving the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night to return to South Dakota to campaign for his re-election bid, forcing him to miss Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s acceptance speech.

“Senator Daschle has a vigorous convention schedule during which he will participate in a number of events,” said Todd Webster, a spokesman for Daschle. “Thursday night will be appropriately focused on our next president, John Kerry.”

Daschle is expected to address the delegates on Tuesday, July 27, where he will discuss “middle-class values and doing right by America.”

The Minority Leader’s decision to leave the convention early comes as the Kerry campaign has begun to slowly unveil its convention calendar, much to the dismay of some Democratic Senators who believe there should have been a massive rollout.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) criticized the campaign in a private communication yesterday for mishandling the announcement by slighting many of the featured speakers who will take the podium later this month at the convention.

In an interview, Mikulski said she was dismayed that the campaign failed to highlight a Monday night program that will feature the nine women Democratic Senators.

Mikulski described her reaction to the campaign’s decision to do a slow rollout of the speakers as “volcanic,” because the “Democratic women have worked very hard with the Kerry campaign for a significant role at the convention.”

She compared the rollout effort to a “one-a-day vitamin,” but the Maryland Senator said she and others preferred the announcement to be akin to a “vitamin shop.”

“I think the Kerry campaign knows they dropped the ball,” said Mikulski, adding that she has “great admiration” for Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, who she contacted yesterday.

Mikulski said she expects the campaign to reconsider the rollout strategy and “get back to the vitamin shop.”

The women’s program will feature a video and one theme being considered is “opening doors.” Each Senator is expected to talk about an issue of importance to them on the video, said a source involved with the planning of this segment. Mikulski, the dean of the Democratic women’s delegation, will deliver live remarks on behalf of the group.

Allison Dobson, a spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign, said it was never the campaign’s intention to insult Mikulski.

“We are obviously sorry that Senator Mikulski feels this way,” Dobson said. “But we are looking very forward to having her speak Monday night in highlighting the role that she and other women Senators will play in the convention discussing John Kerry’s plan to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.”

While Daschle is likely to speak to the convention on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to take the podium Thursday night.

Pelosi said she has no plans to make mention of her Republican counterparts during her speech and will focus instead on the Democratic Party’s goals and achievements.

“This is about we, as Democrats, and what we have to propose,” Pelosi said. “It is not about talking about them. They are not even on my list at all.”

The House Minority Leader said she is in the early stages of writing her speech but noted it is likely to focus on “jobs, health care, education, and national security.”

Pelosi’s theme will play off Massachusetts’ role as the nation’s “cradle of liberty.”

“Basically my theme will be about recognizing that we are in Boston and that was the beginning of freedom in our country that sent a message around the world,” she said.

Other prominent Members of Congress and Democratic candidates will speak throughout the week including Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.), Vice Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.). Also, expected to speak are Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.) and former Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (Mo.).

Hoyer will serve as the convention’s parliamentarian for the fourth time in a row, a position he’s held since the 1992 convention. Hoyer is expected to focus his remarks on how a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democrat in the White House will ensure the nation’s security and represent mainstream American values, according to his spokeswoman Stacey Farnen.

Reid, meanwhile, will speak Wednesday night about his experience growing up in the Nevada mining town of Searchlight.

“Senator Reid will speak about the values he learned in Searchlight growing up as a hard rock miner’s son: Honesty, hard work, service and determination from his humble background,” said Tessa Hafen, Reid’s spokeswoman.

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), who was appointed by Kerry to serve as a co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he declined an invitation to speak when asked. Instead, Durbin said he would encourage Kerry officials to allow Democratic candidates running for office to be given an opportunity to speak at the convention.

“I told them it is not critical since I am not up in the cycle,” he said. “It is not important.

“Put some candidates out there,” he added. “That is more important that they get face time.”

Hours after Durbin made that comment Wednesday, Kerry officials did just that when they announced Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama would deliver the convention’s keynote address on Tuesday night. Obama is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).

“Obviously it is an enormous honor and enormous responsibility to help shape the theme for this year’s convention,” Obama said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. Obama said he planned on using his speech to “give a voice” to the concerns of the families he has met on the campaign trail.

As for Kerry and Edwards, Obama said: “I think they embody the best that this country has to offer.”

Menendez, who helps kick off the first night of the convention with a speech Monday, said he will focus his remarks on “how we make America stronger in the world and stronger at home” and in so doing point out how Democrats will bring a new America that is prosperous and secure.

Menendez said he expects his colleagues to also talk about a change in direction and “portray a different American agenda.”

In addition to the elected House leaders, several other House Members are also on the agenda including, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (Ohio), the co-chairwoman of the Platform Committee, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), who brings diversity to the speaker’s list as one of the few openly gay Members of Congress.

Jones said she likely will speak about family and jobs and the economy, and how Democrats will work to bring hope to those who are struggling.

While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will appear on stage Monday night as part of the women’s delegation, no solo speaking role has been announced. A source said the Kerry campaign had not asked Clinton to speak. The New York Senator would only talk in positive terms yesterday when asked about her convention role.

“I am just looking forward to going to the convention,” she said. “I am excited about the ticket. I think we have got a lot of momentum and energy and coming out of the convention, I think that John Kerry and John Edwards are going to solidify a big lead and I am going to do everything I can to help them win in November.”