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Missing the Party

Some Democrats are skipping the convention this week and distancing themselves from the national ticket.

12:50 PM, Jul 27, 2004 • By RACHEL DICARLO
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Boston

EVERY DAY, Washington Republicans accuse Democratic candidates of being too cozy with the high-profile liberals of their party like Massachusetts senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In more conservative states across the South and Midwest the image of their Democrats sharing the stage and posing for pictures with these types doesn't tend to play well with voters. This year a number of candidates have opted to distance themselves their party's presidential candidate, John Kerry, by staying home from the convention or refusing to associate with the national ticket.

Rep. Rodney Alexander of Louisiana is one. Alexander gave long consideration earlier this year to switching to the Republican party after a squeaker House race in 2002. Alexander's chief of staff Brian Smoot says that he isn't attending the convention because "of a number of important constituent meetings and townhall meetings at home. We think these are more important." What's more, Alexander is staying out of the presidential race altogether by deciding not to support either candidate. "We don't think we're in a position to support either candidate when we're in a tough campaign of our own," Smoot said.

Texas Rep. Martin Frost, whose state will go to Bush in November, and who is competing with Republican Texas Rep. Pete Sessions for a House seat this year is also staying away from Boston this week.

When Senator John Edwards debuted as a national candidate with the launch of his "Front Porch Tour" in Louisiana two weeks ago the Democratic candidate for Senate decided to steer clear. Rep. Chris John, a conservative Democrat running for retiring senator John Breaux's seat, stayed in the District to deal with congressional business.

John is in a tight open primary race in a state likely to go for Bush in November with a Republican and two other Democrats, but his office has said he isn't going to be asking Kerry or Edwards for help.

When Edwards's Front Porch Tour arrived in North Carolina last week, Erskine Bowles who is running for the Senate seat Edwards will vacate if his ticket wins in November, also decided not to appear with him. Bowles isn't attending the convention either.

South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth, granddaughter of a popular former South Dakota governor, narrowly won a special election in South Dakota last month against a relatively unknown farmer by keeping her distance from the more liberal wing of her party and supporting the president on Iraq.

When a reporter asked Herseth if she'd ask the Kerry campaign to come into South Dakota to help her reelection bid in November she didn't say anything. She only laughed.

Rachel DiCarlo is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.