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Bush, Gore Turn Attention to Parties

March 25, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Their primary foes vanquished, George W. Bush and Al Gore are turning their attention to the political parties and making plans to shift loyal supporters to the organizations.

A senior Bush adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Texas governor’s loyalists eventually will head every major Republican National Committee department, though the RNC chairman, Jim Nicholson, and other top party officials will not be asked to leave.

On the Democratic side, Gore has worked closely with party leaders for seven years, but still is going to put his campaign veterans in key posts. ``This isn’t a hostile takeover, it’s a friendly merger,″ Democratic consultant Peter Fenn said.

While spokesmen for both campaigns said no decision had been made on who to transfer to the political party committees, party officials said Bush finance director Donald Evans and top Gore strategist Michael Whouley were likely to make the move. A top Gore fund-raiser, Eileen Kotecki, also is likely to shift to the DNC, officials said.

Republican consultant Ed Gillespie said candidates want the parties to be populated with people they know.

``They know your approach to the campaign, you want to reward loyalty to people who were with you in the toughest of times, and they helped you win and secure the nomination,″ Gillespie said. ``You have faith in their abilities.″

By moving campaign staff to the parties, both candidates can pare their payrolls and reduce their spending. It’s especially important for Gore. Unlike Bush, the vice president accepted federal funds for his campaign and therefore can spend no more than $40.5 million during the primary season.

In addition, the presidential candidates can ensure that their supporters are in control of the party apparatus, with its multimillion dollar campaign treasury and its legions of grassroots activists.

The campaigns also plan to shift their fund-raisers to the parties. The Democrats hope to raise $100 million and the Republicans $172 million this year, much of it to be spent on issue ads on behalf of their presidential nominee.

Evans helped Bush smash all fund-raising records, bringing in more than $73 million for the campaign. Kotecki and veteran Democratic fund-raiser Peter Knight are expected to lend their talents to the Democratic National Committee.

Preparing for the eventual transfer of campaign staff, the DNC had reserved slots in advance. Because Gore has been vice president since 1993, he already has worked with the party hierarchy and most of the current officials are expected to remain in their jobs.

Bush campaign aides are discussing who will move to the RNC and which positions they will occupy there. ``It’s important to have a united team for the 2000 election,″ Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said.

As an added incentive to ensure that the party hierarchy is full of candidate loyalists, all the Bush campaign needs to do is look at 1996, when polls showed GOP nominee Dole heading for defeat. Some Republican officials appeared to write off Dole and shift their attention to protecting the party’s congressional majorities.

``Since Dole won the nomination, I’ve been saying our first goal is to elect Bob Dole president. But it’s not our only priority,″ then-Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour said at the time. ``If Clinton is re-elected, heaven forbid, the last thing the American people want is for him to have a blank check in the form of a liberal Democrat Congress.″

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On the Net: Democratic National Committee: www.democrats.org

Republican National Committee: www.rnc.org

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