Democrats Hold Final Meeting on Chairman Race, Roemer Booed on Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 31, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Democrats Hold Final Meeting on Chairman Race, Roemer Booed on Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 31, 2005

New York, NY ( — National Democrats held their final regional meeting in advance of February’s vote on a new chairman to head up the party. Reflecting the regions leanings in favor of abortion, those in attendance booed pro-life former Indiana Congressman Tim Roemer when he spoke about his view on the touchy issue.

Frontrunner Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and presidential candidate, has the lead with about 50 endorsements — giving him a lead over his opponent in the race for the 215 votes necessary to win.

Abortion advocates Martin Frost, a former Texas congressman, and Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg are in second and third place, respectively. Roemer has found little support among party activists, most of whom solidly support abortion.

Roemer tried to overcome opposition to his candidacy because of his pro-life views, but found himself the subject of boos and hisses when he brought up the need for the party to not be so rigidly in favor of abortion.

"I don’t think this party has ever litmus-tested a candidate," he said. "We’re not the intolerant party. We’re the inclusive party. We’re the party that doesn’t let Karl Rove define our stand on choice. But we shouldn’t also let a special interest group define our stand on choice.

Dean sparked an abortion debate of his own when he signaled his concern with remarks made by new Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).

Last month, Reid indicated he thought he could go along with the possible elevation of pro-life Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to the Chief Justice position, if Bush made such a nomination.

"I don’t think that’s where most Democrats are," Dean said. "I sympathized with him because many times in the campaign, I said a few things like that without thinking through the implications of what I was saying."

The divisiveness of the race and the abortion issue is fairly new for party activists, who haven’t faced such a heated contest for the party’s chairman since 1988. The winner will have a significant impact on the direction of the party.

Syndicated columnist William O’Rourke, in a recent article, calls Dean and Roemer the "the Sunni and the Shiite factions of the party" referring to the two branches of the Muslim face that have always been fighting one another.

O’Rourke calls Dean the "secular screamer and former Rep. Roemer the moral values go-to guy."

He says the party should select them both as co-chairman and unite both the traditional Reagan Democrats, who backed Bush in 2000 and 2004 and the more liberal pro-abortion Democrats who steadfastly hate Bush and his pro-life policies.

However, that likely won’t happen as key abortion advocacy groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood have made it clear they will not stand for a new chairman who opposes abortion.

Democratic activist Donnie Fowler, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, and former Ohio state chair David Leland are the other candidates in the race. All three back abortion.

Fowler may wind up being the surprise candidate in the race. On Monday, a group of state party chairman endorsed him. His father is former Democratic National Committee chairman Donald Fowler of South Carolina.

The party chairman vote is set for February 12.