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Dean Advances Toward DNC’s Top Post as Frost Withdraws

Times Staff Writer

Former Rep. Martin Frost of Texas ended his quest for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday, further solidifying Howard Dean’s advantage in the contest.

In a statement, Frost suggested that he thought the former Vermont governor had the race sewn up.

“The challenge ahead for Gov. Dean will be to unite the party, rebuild the DNC and win elections in every region of the country,” said Frost, who did not endorse Dean or any of the three others vying for the post.

The DNC’s 447 members will pick the chairman at a meeting next week in Washington.

Frost, once considered Dean’s most significant rival, dropped out shortly after the AFL-CIO’s political committee decided not to endorse a candidate in the race. He had been banking on labor’s backing to revive his campaign.

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Frost, a longtime House member who lost reelection in November, attracted the most votes at the AFL-CIO gathering, but the committee concluded that it was too divided to endorse anyone, said Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and chairman of the political panel.

Instead, the committee voted to permit individual unions to make their own endorsements.

Among Dean’s remaining rivals, party strategist Donnie Fowler has attracted the most support. Simon Rosenberg, president of the centrist New Democrat Network, and former Rep. Timothy J. Roemer of Indiana have drawn negligible backing.

Also withdrawing from the race Monday was former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Leland, another long-shot candidate. He endorsed Dean, who rose to nationwide prominence with his aggressive -- although unsuccessful -- bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

On Monday, Dean won the endorsements of the influential Assn. of State Democratic Chairs and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who had sought the DNC job.

On Tuesday, Dean’s campaign released a list of endorsements from 53 more DNC members, pushing his total of confirmed supporters to 102. That remains well below the number needed to win but is far more than any of his rivals can claim.

Under DNC rules, the vote for the chairmanship continues until one contender wins an absolute majority of the ballots cast. Because some DNC members from U.S. territories do not have a full vote, party officials say it will require 216 votes for election, if all members participate.

McEntee said he viewed Dean’s selection as a fait accompli, but in other comments he reflected the anxiety among many Democratic leaders about entrusting the chairmanship to a politician who had become known for a blunt, outspoken style.

“He will be able to raise money; he will be able to raise the level of energy, but then the other side of the coin is, what direction does he go?” McEntee said. “He’s got to be extremely careful ... so he can be a moderate face of the Democratic Party.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) told reporters they could work with Dean if he won the job. But both indicated they expected the next DNC leader to follow their lead on issues and message.


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