WASHINGTON – Cindy Sheehan, who jumpstarted an anti-war revival in August with her vigil outside President Bush’s vacation ranch, will not endorse anyone for the Maryland U.S. Senate race.
Sheehan, who will address a University of Maryland forum Tuesday with Independent Senate candidate Kevin Zeese, also distanced herself from a campaign fund-raiser to be held at Zeese’s Takoma Park home before the forum — a savvy move given the growing number of anti-war candidates in the field, political observers said.
Zeese had said earlier that Sheehan would attend the fund-raiser.
“Is it a fund-raiser?” Sheehan asked in response to a reporter’s question. “I was understanding it was a forum that I’d be speaking at.”
“I’ll clarify that with her,” Zeese said later. It was “appropriate” for Sheehan to decline making political endorsements, he said.
The University of Maryland forum, titled “The Iraq War and the Costs at Home,” is sponsored by The Democracy Collaborative and features Sheehan, Zeese and university Middle East expert Shibley Telhami in a dialogue “to engage members of the university community in the central issues facing our democracy,” a news release said.
Sheehan, who will discuss the war’s impact on her life, said she supports all anti-war candidates in the Maryland Senate race.
“Kevin (Zeese) is a good friend of mine and I believe in the anti-war position he’s taking,” Sheehan said. “But he’s not the only anti-war candidate running in that race.”
Zeese, a former spokesman for Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign, heads Democracy Rising, a nonprofit working to end the Iraq war. On Sept. 12, he announced his bid for retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes’ seat.
Democratic candidates Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist; Allan Lichtman, a history professor; A. Robert Kaufman, a socialist activist, and former NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume have all called for American withdrawal from Iraq.
Mfume has taken “a very definite” stand against the war, in part to distinguish himself from Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, who initially voted against the war but subsequently voted to fund it, said Blair Lee, a political columnist for the Gazette newspapers.
Republican candidates Thomas Hampton, a controller, and Corrogan Vaughn, a business owner, said they support the war in Iraq as a vital part of the war on terrorism.
The anti-war vote could swing next year’s Senate election, Lee said. “It’s the only way for Maryland voters to send a message about the war to Capitol Hill,” Lee said. “This puts terrific pressure on Mike Steele.”
Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is considering a run for U.S. Senate, has not yet announced his candidacy, but is already considered the Republican front-runner.
Sheehan said Thursday she wasn’t comfortable making an endorsement because Gold Star Families for Peace, a nonprofit she co-founded in January, cannot give financial or other support to specific candidates.
Sheehan’s son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in April 2004. Since then, she has demanded to meet with Bush to ask for an explanation for the Iraqi occupation. Her outspokenness has attracted personal criticism from war supporters.
Wearing a simple black T-shirt printed with a row of small peace symbols, Sheehan spoke Thursday at the National Press Club at the launch of an anti-war newspaper and television advertising campaign.
Called “They Lied, They Died,” the campaign features family members of slain troops who argue the Bush administration deliberately misled the country in the days before the Iraq war.
Congressional leaders have to confront the Iraq war as an election year issue, said Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War, who spoke at the news conference with Sheehan.
“You can run for Congress, but you cannot hide from the Iraq war and your responsibility to bring it to an end,” Andrews said. “This is only the beginning.”