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Kerry Allies to Shape Party Platform

Four Democratic House Members — led by Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro — will serve on the committee charged with drafting the party’s platform heading into the convention.

DeLauro is joined on the panel by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Shelley Berkley (Nev.) and Hilda Solis (Calif.). The only other elected official on the 16-member committee is John Marks, the mayor of Tallahassee, Fla.

“This is a great opportunity to work with the full diversity of the Democratic Party,” DeLauro said in an interview Monday. “It is an opportunity to set a new policy agenda for our country.”

The group will begin the first of four hearings this weekend in Portland, Ore. That meeting will focus on homeland security.

Meetings will also be convened in Baton Rouge, La., on June 5 to discuss national security; June 11 in Columbus, Ohio, to discuss the economy and jobs; and June 18 in Santa Fe, N.M., with a focus on education and health care.

DeLauro said that in addition to the formal hearings, “we will be talking with a broad array of individuals and groups” in search of “creative and bold solutions to the problems we have.”

The product of these meetings and conversations will be presented in July to the full 186-member platform committee when it meets in Miami prior to the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer.

The full committee is chaired by Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

Because the crafting of the party’s platform is largely a formulaic process, these appointments are seen as political plums to reward and encourage key allies. Insiders note that Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign hand-picked each of the members.

DeLauro is a close ally of both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and her predecessor, Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.).

After serving as Assistant to the Minority Leader — a post created for her by Gephardt — DeLauro lost a race for Democratic Caucus chairman by just one vote to New Jersey Rep. Bob Menendez (N.J.).

Former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt chaired the committee going into the 2000 elections. Then-Georgia Gov. Zell Miller (D) served in that role in 1996 — several years before he grew vocally disenchanted with the Democratic Party. Now a Senator, Miller has endorsed President Bush’s re-election campaign.

Blumenauer was a key early supporter of Kerry, sticking with the Massachusetts Senator through the dark days of 2003 when Kerry’s campaign appeared to be dead in the water. He has also donated generously to endangered House Democrats this cycle.

Kerry campaigned in Portland, Ore. — the biggest city in a key battleground state — on Monday night and was scheduled to hold several more events there today. In 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore won the Beaver State by 6,765 out of more than 1.4 million ballots cast.

Nevada is another of the roughly 18 states that are seen as battlegrounds in the presidential contest. Bush won a 50 percent to 46 percent victory there in 2000. Berkley and Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid are the only two Democrats in the state’s Hill delegation.

Solis, a Hispanic, defeated Democrat-turner-Republican Matthew Martinez to claim the 32nd district in 2000. Kerry spent Cinco de Mayo with Solis in Los Angeles. Voters of Hispanic descent are considered a crucial swing bloc this fall, but Kerry has faced some criticism from Hispanic Democrats for the lack of Latinos in the upper echelons of his campaign staff.

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