WASHINGTON — National Democratic Chairman Paul G. Kirk today accused Gary Hart of placing personal needs ahead of the party by rejoining the presidential race, suggesting that it will cause short-term damage to Democratic chances of capturing the White House.
While Hart was flying from New England to a campaign stop in South Dakota, Kirk said in Washington that it was "not a moment of elation" when he heard that the former Colorado senator had decided to rejoin the race.
"But on the other hand, I think this will all self-correct," he said. "As my football coach used to say, 'When you take a hit, take it and go.' "
A Kirk aide, Julie Anbender, said the chairman was referring to the impact of Hart's action on the party and its presidential prospects.
'Never Hurt This Party'
Hart, asked about Kirk's comments during a brief stop at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, said, "I'm not going to respond to that."
Hart dropped out of the race last May after reports that he had spent a weekend with a Miami model who is not his wife. He disputed in an interview Wednesday night that he is being selfish or that his re-entry into the race is harming the party.
"I've never hurt this party in 25 years," Hart said. "I've worked for 25 years for the Democratic Party. . . . I am a regular Democrat. I've done as much for this party as anybody, and I am as entitled to run for office in the Democratic Party as anybody."
Hart said he is getting into the race because none of the other six candidates are discussing the ideas he thought were important. But Kirk slapped him down on that in a breakfast meeting with reporters, saying, "He doesn't have a unique corner on ideas."
Asked whether he believes that Hart is placing his own personal needs over the good of the party, Kirk took a long pause before responding, "Yes."