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Kerry's Bid Wins Feinstein Endorsement

September 17, 2003|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California endorsed fellow Sen. John F. Kerry for president Tuesday, giving the Massachusetts Democrat the support of one of the most popular elected officials from the nation's most populous state in his bid for the party's 2004 nomination.

"He has the conscience, the intellect, the common sense, the credibility in terms of national security issues," Feinstein said of Kerry in a brief interview in the Capitol. "He's a superb debater. He's the right one to carry the battle."

Her announcement boosted Kerry in the intense competition among the Democratic presidential candidates for congressional endorsements.

The 247 congressional Democrats not running for president are being wooed by seven current and former colleagues who are seeking the White House. These suitors are Kerry, Sens. Bob Graham of Florida, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John Edwards of North Carolina, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and Reps. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio.

Also courting Democrats on Capitol Hill are three outsiders: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the latest presumed entrant, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, whose military experience could blunt one of Kerry's strengths as a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

Members of Congress can lend their support to a White House hopeful in several ways. First, they will be delegates at the party's convention next year in Boston, and thus eligible to vote on the nomination. Second, they can help raise money for a candidate.

Third, they can give credence to a candidate's claim of having a legitimate shot at winning.

In 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas secured large numbers of endorsements from congressional Republicans in his run for the presidency. That institutional support from within the party helped him significantly when Bush met a stiff primary challenge in early 2000 from Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The 2004 Democratic contenders hope for similar support. Gephardt has more than 30 endorsements, more than any other candidate. Among those endorsing him are his successor as House minority leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

Kerry now has 17 congressional endorsements. In addition to Feinstein, his supporters include Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), 10 House members from Massachusetts and a handful from elsewhere, including Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald of Carson.

California's other U.S. senator, Barbara Boxer, has not endorsed a candidate. But she said Tuesday that she was intrigued by Clark.

"With national security such a major issue," Boxer said, "I think he could be very strong."

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