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Hart Withdrawal Speech Prompts Tight Jaws, Tears, Cheering

May 8, 1987

DENVER (AP) _ For a moment, when Gary Hart appeared to change his mind and charge back into the presidential campaign, a small crowd of campaign staff and volunteers broke into cheers and applause.

Hart said he had thought about delivering a short statement withdrawing from the race, but ″I said to myself, hell no.″

There were gasps of surprise and flurries of applause. But the mood changed when it became clear, at the end of his 10-minute withdrawal speech at the Executive Tower Inn on Friday, that his race for the Democratic nomination was over.

Some members of his headquarters staff stood, arms folded, heads down, jaws clenched. Some smiled and nodded. A few dabbed at tears.

″Hart held his first press conference here when he ran for the Senate,″ said Bill Saling, director of catering for the downtown hotel, recalling Hart’s first, successful run for office in 1974.

″Whether it’s fitting or not, it started here and it ends here, and there are a lot of sad people here.″

Among the hundreds who crowded into the ballroom was Stan Oliner, curator of books, manuscripts and recordings for the Colorado Historical Society.

Oliner had taped Hart’s formal announcement for the presidency 25 days earlier, on April 13. On Friday, he used the other side of the tape - the side he had reserved for Hart’s inaugural address.

″I’ve heard of history,″ Olinor said, ″but not three-week history.″

Greg Berger, 25, a Denver lawyer who had hung posters, done research and done ″the basic footwork″ for Hart, didn’t know what to feel.

″I don’t know if I’m angry. Dismayed, perhaps,″ Berger said.

″I’m depressed. Here was a man who spent the past 14 years developing issues, developing answers to problems we’re having and will have, and nobody would talk to him about it.″

Berger said that if Ronald Reagan ″is the Teflon president, then Hart was the flypaper candidate.″

Kathi Bitzer, who worked in Hart’s Denver office as a volunteer communications aide, said she had worked in other campaigns and thus did not share the disbelief of younger staffers as the ″other woman″ issue mushroomed over the last week.

″Some of the younger people didn’t want to believe it,″ she said. ″I think I felt really, truly, that the escalation would make it difficult for him to carry on.

″This is the kind of thing that the public and the media want to grab on to, and the story snowballed. I was amazed at the speed.″

She will take some time off, she said, and think about what she might do about future candidates, but she wonders who has the strength to come forward.

″I don’t know how many people there are out there who are qualified who really don’t have something that could come out,″ she said. ″Where is the line drawn?″

Amy Kavanaugh and Julie Silver, two other volunteers in his Denver office, stood together before he arrived and joined in chants of ″Gary, Gary, Gary.″

The two, both in their 20s, remained behind, watching the television crews and reporters conducting interviews, long after his departure.

Kavanaugh said she had believed, even during his speech, that Hart would stay in the race.

″I don’t know why,″ she said. ″I guess it was just hope more than anything else.″

Silver said she would not become skeptical about politics.

″It makes me believe all the more you have to fight for what you believe in. You have to have an optimistic attitude, because we need people who care ... who want to be involved.

″It’s very easy to be apathetic and let other people worry about running the country, but I think it’s very important to be involved.″

As Hart and his wife left the hotel, they entered a car lined up with others on a street blocked off by Denver police. As their car drove away, escorted front and rear by motorcycle policemen, a woman shouted, ″We’re sorry, Gary.″

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