Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is expected to name two Midwestern Members of Congress to senior level posts at the Democratic National Committee in the coming days to help him raise money and amplify his message on the campaign trail.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) are negotiating specific roles and titles with Kerry’s presidential campaign staff, four well-placed Democratic sources confirmed late Wednesday afternoon.
“It is important to the Kerry campaign to have these two Members play important leadership roles not only because of the leadership they display in their key states, but their national leadership as well,” said a key Kerry adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Joe Shoemaker, a spokesman for Durbin would not speak directly to the issue, saying: “Senator Kerry has talked publicly about Senator Durbin playing an increasing role in the campaign.” A spokeswoman for Jones would not speak on the subject and a spokesman at the Kerry campaign could not be reached for comment.
One scenario under discussion is to have the two Democratic Members serve in roles similar to the one that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) performed for then-President Clinton in 1996, the sources said. Dodd served as the DNC chairman in that election year and frequently squared off against then-Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour in debates.
The appointments would not affect DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe who would still be responsible for the committee’s day-to-day operations.
The addition of Durbin and Jones to Kerry’s campaign team is seen as a symbolic, but important step by the Massachusetts Democrat to demonstrate to middle America his willingness to include their elected representatives in his inner circle. This is especially important in key battleground states such as Ohio, where 20 electoral votes are up for grabs.
“Both Members of Congress come from key states that are important to Kerry and both are ideally suited to help manage the message,” said a Democrat familiar with the discussions, but spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
While Kerry will compete with Bush in Ohio, he is favored to capture Illinois’ 21 electoral votes in November.