WASHINGTON – Howard Dean’s decision to pull out of the Democratic presidential primary Wednesday will not stop some supporters from voting for him in Maryland, where his name will still be on the March 2 ballot.
But other Dean supporters in Maryland were already looking past the primary, and said they will continue to uphold his message and fight for the Democratic Party.
“We will stay together as a movement to elect a Democrat to the White House,” said Bill Meyer, a supporter from Baltimore who credited Dean with reviving a reeling party.
David Bailey, an organizer in Gaithersburg for the grass-roots organization Maryland for Dean, said there is anger toward President Bush and “Dean spoke our language, and said what we hoped our party would say for months. He said back to us what we were thinking.”
“There is still a lot of force in our group, and I don’t want to see it turn into dust,” Bailey said.
But he and other Dean supporters were still saddened by Dean’s withdrawal.
“It’s somewhat like a dear friend has died,” Bailey said.
Dean’s decision comes less than two weeks before Maryland’s primary. It was a sharp turnaround for Dean, who was the Democratic front-runner leading up to the Iowa caucuses in mid-January. But a disappointing third-place Iowa finish was the beginning of a 17-state winless streak, ending with a distant third-place finish Tuesday in Wisconsin.
From his base in Burlington, Vt., Dean said Wednesday that he would support the eventual Democratic nominee for president, urging his supporters to do the same. But he did not immediately endorse any of the remaining hopefuls.
The former Vermont governor said he wanted to maintain his existing grassroots support to continue “transform the Democratic Party and change the country.”
The two remaining front-runners, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, both praised Dean for revitalizing the party and bringing in new voters.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, the only member of Maryland’s congressional delegation to support Dean, said the congressman will make a statement soon regarding Dean’s announcement.
Terry Lierman — one of Dean’s national finance co-chairmen and the chairman of the campaign in Maryland — said Dean’s supporters would work to make sure that other Democratic candidates hold true to issues championed by the former governor.
“There’s a tinge of sadness that the White House is not in the picture, but now a lot of other things are in the picture,” said Lierman, who was on stage with Dean in Burlington for the withdrawal announcement.
Though he was saddened, Meyer was not surprised by the announcement.
“He said Wisconsin was a do-or-die state, and I took him for his word,” said Meyer, who has been a Dean supporter for two years. “Dean is keeping his eye on the prize, and that prize is getting Bush out of the White House.”
With Dean out, Meyer thinks Maryland Democrats will vote 65 percent to 35 percent in favor of Edwards. While voters will want to support Kerry because of his “electability,” more will support Edwards because he is “a better candidate,” he said.
Bailey, who is also president of the District 15 Democratic Club, said he will vote for Edwards, because Kerry represents the “status quo.”
“I would have liked to seen this go to the convention, but it looks like the lemmings are just marching to the ocean,” said Bailey, who was also an early Dean backer. “We’re going to get a poor second choice.”
But Robin Pollini of Baltimore, who has been has been coordinating voter registration for Maryland for Dean since March, said she plans to go ahead and vote for Dean.
Pollini is a New Hampshire native who first became aware of Dean in the mid-1990s, while he was governor of Vermont. She was an independent, but registered as a Democrat in Maryland for this election just to vote for Dean.
She plans to do so March 2 — then switch out of the party and return to being independent.
“I put my time and my effort into this campaign for a year. I’d still like to at least vote for him,” she said.
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