Some Hart Campaigners Returning, But Most Shy Away From Revived Candidacy
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Most of Gary Hart’s one-time top supporters across the country are keeping away from his renewed campaign, and even some who haven’t found another candidate are saying, ″I have something else to do.″
Associated Press interviews with several former Hart campaign leaders around the country found a few enthusiastically rejoining his effort but many more shunning it.
″My involvement with the ’88 Hart campaign went down with the good ship Monkey Business,″ said Seattle fundraiser Tom Keefe Jr.
″I’m Gary’s friend but not his supporter,″ said Mark Green, a New York Democrat who was a Hart speechwriter in 1984 and active in his campaign in early 1987. Green said he knows of few former Hart backers returning to the fold, most having gone on to the other six Democratic contenders.
″It’s regarded as dishonorable to abandon someone you’ve endorsed, even if your first flame comes back into your life,″ he said.
Hart said he didn’t expect all his supporters to return when he rejoined the race last month, seven months after withdrawing in a sex scandal over his relationship with model Donna Rice and reports of relationships with other women. But he has opened a headquarters in Denver and welcomed supporters who were willing to return.
One who won’t is Regan Burke, Hart’s campaign director in 11 midwestern states until May and a campaign scheduler in 1984. Now living in Indiana, she predicted few Democrats will take Hart seriously again.
″No, I’m not going to support him; I have something else to do,″ she said. ″It is sad; it’s his swan song, kind of.″
Hart’s former national press secretary, Kevin Sweeney, was waiting tables at the upscale Lily’s Cafe in the San Francisco area after Hart dropped out, but lost that job after the restaurant closed. Sweeney, 29, said when Hart re- entered the race he would take another job dishing up fettuccine but was not interested in rejoining the campaign.
One of Hart’s biggest Democratic establishment supporters, Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, dismisses Hart’s return as ″a non-event, significant only in that it shows a lack of political realism.″ A former national coordinator for Hart, Florida House Speaker Jon Mills, plans to endorse Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr. on Monday.
Hart’s campaign picked up a handful of old supporters in the first weeks of its rebirth, some departing other campaigns. In crucial New Hampshire, co- ordinators Greg LaBelle and Edgar Helms left Gore’s campaign to rejoin Hart, and several other former Hart workers have returned from the sidelines.
Dan Calegari left his job as regional coordinator for Rep. Richard Gephardt, a week after saying he would stick with the Missouri congressman, to rejoin Hart. His former wife, Sue Calegari, had been with Hart but is remaining as New Hampshire co-chairman for Bruce Babbitt. Hart’s unofficial South Dakota chairman, Paul Weissmann, departed Babbitt’s campaign last week to rejoin Hart.
Hart loyalist Paul Giorgio left his job in the Massachusetts secretary of state’s office to rejoin Hart and was his de facto press secretary in Hart’s first campaign swing through New England. ″I’ve never left,″ Giorgio said. ″The reason I stuck with him is, that’s what friends are for.″
Several Minnesota supporters have returned from other campaigns. St. Paul lawyer John Sherman, who is abandoning Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, said he was disappointed with Hart’s personal problems ″but even more stupid was his dropping out of the race.″
But in state after state, those returning have proved to be the exception so far. Many former supporters speak bitterly of Hart.
″Ultimately, it’s rather selfish,″ said Ken Canfield, his former Georgia co-chairman who has since joined Sen. Paul Simon. ″It dredges up all those awful feelings people had last May and sickens them in the process.″
″I think it’s just another example of poor judgment on his part,″ said Gary Koch of Winchester, Ill., now a Dukakis supporter. ″I’ve just lost faith in him. I think he’s done a disservice to the party and the staff people who were on his payroll.″
Joel and Becky Spenner of Hoyleton, Ill., had been publishers of a monthly newsletter to 2,000 Hart supporters called ″A New Patriotism,″ and had invested $5,000 and 5,000 hours of their time to help Hart. They’re sticking with Dukakis now.
″We took him at his word when he withdrew,″ Joel Spenner said. ″As of right now, I have a candidate I think is better than Gary Hart.″
Hart’s former deputy campaign manager John Emerson, now Los Angeles deputy city attorney, said he is now ″an unofficial, informal adviser to Gary,″ but will remain officially unaligned.
The three most prominent California politicians who had endorsed Hart in 1987 - Assemblyman Tom Hayden and state Sens. John Garamendi and Gary Hart, who is unrelated to the candidate - are remaining neutral, too. ″I suspect a lot of the Hart supporters will probably do what I’m doing, which is nothing for a while,″ said Garamendi.
Hart’s one-time North Carolina co-ordinator, John McArthur, is now involved in a state race and says ″almost heartbreaking″ is the way he remembers the Hart campaign. ″I still feel the same disappointment,″ he said.
Some of Hart’s new campaign leaders speak optimistically of regained strength, however. George Sallade, co-chairman in Michigan, claims half or more of the 1,100 volunteers in that state will return.
A former national finance chairman, Jim Barrett of Oklahoma City, Okla., said there’s no finance committee now but, ″I am back. ... He elicits great loyality from people.″