Kerry Surrogates in NYC

Barney Frank, Jeanne Shaheen raise money amidst campaign woes

On the heels of a highly publicized shake-up at the top levels of his campaign and a report published in Time magazine that “fund raisers are telling him it’s getting next to impossible to find anyone willing to write a check to his campaign,” Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democratic hopeful, sent two of his big guns to New York this week to raise money among the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and women’s communities.

U.S. Representative Barney Frank, the out gay Massachusetts Democrat, and Jeanne Shaheen, the former New Hampshire governor who is co-chair of the Kerry campaign, were both in Manhattan this past week to revive any flagging spirits among New Yorkers supporting the decorated Vietnam War veteran’s candidacy.

Frank appeared Sunday afternoon at a $250 per person reception at the home of Joe Barron, a fitness entrepreneur who founded Definitions Gym. A campaign source said that about 15 people attended the Barron event.

Later on Sunday, several dozen supporters paid $50 a head to meet Frank at an event at O.W. Bar on the East Side.

Two nights later, Shaheen was the featured speaker at a women’s event hosted by Laurie Rothenberg, a partner at the law firm Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, and Robin Chandler Duke, a retired U.S. ambassador. About seventy guests paid $250 to attend that event.

In his remarks at O.W., the twelve-term representative warned that despite valiant efforts in the Senate to forestall the rightward drift of the federal judiciary, the effort cannot be sustained through a second Bush term, and that favorable rulings in the Lawrence sodomy case, in Roe v. Wade regarding the right to choose, and on affirmative action would all be at risk if Bush were re-elected.

Comparing Kerry to Democratic front runner Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, Frank argued that Kerry’s willingness to stand up against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996––he was the only senator up for reelection that year to do so––put him on par with Dean’s signing of his state’s civil unions law.

Noting both Kerry’s Vietnam War record and his stint as a prosecutor, Frank said the Massachusetts senator can withstand traditional Republican attacks on the Democrats as being soft on crime and national defense.

“He shot Communists and locked up murderers,” Frank said, riffing on the sorts of appeals he presumably believes are typically part of the Republican repertoire.

Frank also faulted Dean and other Democratic opponents of Kerry for calling for a blanket repeal of all of the Bush administration’s tax cuts.

“We should not seem too eager to raise taxes,” he said. “Repealing all tax cuts is an economic and political mistake. We should not be campaigning for higher taxes, we should be campaigning for tax equality and fairness.”

Though Frank voted against authorization for the Iraq war, he does not believe that Kerry’s vote for it––or for that matter, Joseph Lieberman’s or John Edward’s––is “predictive” of how these Democrats would act in office.

“If a Democrat had been in the White House, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he argued.

Frank also questioned Dean’s progressive bona fides.

“On the war, I think he correctly figured out where a lot of Democrats would be and went there,” he said of Dean. “His record is not one of being on the left. I remember when Howard Dean was a moderate, when he joked to me that he was to the left of me on an issue.”

Dan Tietz, president of the Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s LGBT political club, was among the Kerry supporters on hand at the O.W. fundraiser.

“He’s smart, capable, thoughtful, and steady,” said Tietz, who has known Kerry since both men worked in the Dukakis administration––Kerry as lieutenant governor. “He’s easily the strongest candidate for several reasons.”

In an apparent reference to the Frank line of argument that Dean’s progressivism is opportunistic, Tietz added, “Kerry is consistent, which I don’t think can be said for others.”

Though disappointed that Kerry did not vote against the Iraq war, Tietz argued that the senator has articulated a consistent message about the risks of U.S. policy, and that he never thought his vote was giving Bush “a blank check.”

Melissa Sklarz, a transgendered woman, also a Kerry supporter, said she too wished he had stood up to the Congressional war resolution, but that his status as “a war hero,” would help him face down Bush and “all of his phony war standing.”

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