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With presidency settled, race is on for Democratic party leadership

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The end of the post-election presidential battle has set off maneuvering among Democrats interested in becoming the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee -- a race that is wide open now that there will be no Democratic president to make his preference known to the party's leaders.

According to Democratic sources, a handful of prominent Democrats are sending out feelers to determine whether they would have significant support. Among those said to be testing the waters: Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Terry McAuliffe, a top fund-raiser for President Clinton, also has expressed interest to several friends. Veteran party organizer and consultant Don Sweitzer also is sounding out allies on the committee, in Congress and across the labor movement, several party sources said.

Joe Andrew is the current national chairman; former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell was brought in as "general chairman" -- largely a fund-raising role -- during the past campaign, but he has fallen out of favor with the president and vice president, as well as with Andrew and many of the party committee's longtime members. Andrew is said be one top aide to be interested in staying on, but another senior party official said he expected Andrew would not seek re-election.

McAuliffe is viewed as the early favorite in Washington, if for not other reason than he would have the backing of House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri. McAuliffe, a prolific fund-raiser, has told friends he is very interested, but does not want to run if it is going to be a bruising campaign.

With the White House soon to be in GOP hands, congressional Democrats are far more interested in focusing the party on the 2002 mid-term elections. In that regard, there already is rumbling about the prospect of a Richardson candidacy. One leading House Democrat said Richardson, a former colleague, was interested in running for governor or Senate from New Mexico and "two years from now is far too important to have the platform of the DNC used for personal reasons, or to have a chairman distracted in any way."

The election takes place at the DNC meeting in January.


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Thursday, December 14, 2000


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