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Kerry Campaign Settles on Capitol Hill

Invoking the spirit of President Woodrow Wilson, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has opened a Capitol Hill headquarters for his presidential campaign.

The Kerry campaign signed a one-year lease — with three additional four-month options that can be exercised if things go well on the trail — on Monday for a three-story, 7,296-square-foot building on Stanton Park.

“Hopefully he’ll need it for both years,” said Kim Price of CRESA Partners, the real estate company that manages the building.

The building at 519 C St. NE, situated at the southeast corner of the park, is owned by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, which had been trying to sell it at an asking price of $2.1 million.

Instead, the association leased the building to Kerry, who will for the foreseeable future operate with dual campaign headquarters, one on the Hill and the other in Boston.

Price and the Kerry campaign declined to say what the monthly rent is for the building.

The campaign was attracted in part by some of the building’s magic, which has a political history dating back to 1916. That, and the fact that it’s a short commute for Kerry from his Russell Senate Office Building suite and for many members of his campaign staff who already live on Capitol Hill.

“Our landlords tell us Woodrow Wilson ran his winning presidential re-election campaign from our new digs, and maybe the time’s right again for a smart statesman who wants to make America safer and stronger. The office has good karma, and we can walk to work,” said David Wade, a Kerry spokesman.

Like Wilson, an avowed internationalist who led the unsuccessful fight to get the United States to join the League of Nations, Kerry is basing his presidential bid largely on his expertise in foreign affairs. He has openly criticized what he calls President Bush’s tendencies to favor a go-it-alone approach to global affairs.

Price said the building will remain on the market, but one thing will definitely change: The “for sale” sign is either coming down or will be put in a more discreet location to avoid the awkward appearance that the presidential campaign is “For Sale.”

The building does not have a strictly Democratic history. The home-care association bought the building years ago from the Heritage Foundation, and association aides say the building’s lore includes being home to a labor union and a boarding house.

Wade said staff would begin moving into the office fairly quickly, but that no one should get too comfortable as the primary headquarters for Kerry’s operation will continue to be Boston.

The Stanton Park town house is designed to be an office for staffers currently living in the Washington area and an easy place for Kerry — whose day job as Senator will require most of his time on weekdays to be spent on the Hill — to hold meetings with consultants and do fundraising calls.

“Eventually all the staff is going to move up to Boston. This is primarily going to be for the staff that are already here,” Wade said.

Price had shown the Kerry campaign space in the home-care association’s current headquarters, on the Seventh Street Southeast block that is home to Eastern Market, but that space was deemed to small for the growing campaign.

They instead settled on the Stanton Park building, which was built around 1900. In addition to the three stories, the building boasts a windowed basement, a large conference room with built-in bookcases and two off-street parking spaces.

Other Members who are presidential contenders have or are looking for office space in Washington but nothing as big as Kerry. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) has converted the small rooms that he used for fundraising in an office building on the 200 block of Massachusetts Avenue Northeast into a presidential campaign office. Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) hopes to have his space nailed down by Feb. 1st.

The new Capitol Hill headquarters is just one part of the expanding infrastructure that Kerry is building for his campaign.

The Massachusetts Senator has been focusing on building his network of supporters in the key states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

John Norris (D), a House candidate in 2002 and former chief of staff to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), will serve as campaign manager in the Hawkeye State. And Jerry Crawford, a top Vilsack adviser, will serve as one of the chairmen of that state’s campaign.

In New Hampshire, where Kerry will face high expectations given his neighboring-native state status, Billy Shaheen will head up the Kerry campaign. Shaheen is the husband of Jean Shaheen (D), the former governor and unsuccessful Senatorial candidate in 2002.

He headed up former Vice President Al Gore’s narrow and climactic primary win over former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) in 2000.

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