DFL leaders endorse Dean, tout his knowledge of key issues

by Beth Hornby

Minnesota DFL leaders met at the State Capitol on Thursday to personally endorse former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean to be the Democratic candidate for the 2004 presidential race.

Dean supporters, including Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and state DFL leaders, gathered behind a podium with “The doctor is in” written across the front – a reference to Dean’s days as a practicing physician.

In order to get the full official DFL party endorsement, Dean must secure at least 71 percent of the vote in a party-wide straw poll March 2. Attendees at Thursday’s event hope their individual support can help make that happen.

State Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul, said Dean’s inside knowledge of health care and higher education issues put him above other candidates.

“Dean’s seen the benefits of investing in the development of human resources and scientific arenas because he is a product of that,” Moua said.

DFLers also repeatedly said that as governor of Vermont, Dean brought down a $70 million deficit.

“He has been socially and fiscally progressive,” Rybak said.

Minnesota Dean campaign chairman Ted Mondale said Dean is also the right choice for students.

“He fully understands the necessity of increasing funds to higher education because he has been governor during a recession and still invested in higher ed,” Mondale said.

The University DFL, however, said they would not support any candidate until the national party chooses a nominee.

“We don’t want to hold anything against other candidates because we may be working with those people,” said Andy Pomroy, former president and current member of the U-DFL.

Other students, however, are already mobilizing behind Dean.

Emily Souza, chairwoman of Students for Howard Dean, said Dean offers something for everyone.

“His political viewpoints are all over the map,” Souza said. “He’s got varied supporters, including Greens, independents and even some Republicans siding with him,” Souza said.

Mondale said he believes Dean’s ideas might appeal to younger voters because he is opposed to cutting funding on health care and especially higher education.