Next year's Ohio gubernatorial election is a top priority for the Democratic National Committee.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
CLEVELAND -- Terry McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee chairman, said his party is one of tolerance and that includes putting up with the antics of U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.
"That is the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans," McAuliffe told The Vindicator. "We are a big tent. We tolerate a lot more."
But the Democrats were not so forgiving in January after Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, voted for Republican Dennis Hastert for speaker of the House. Traficant, who often votes with Republicans, was denied a House committee seat for his Hastert vote.
McAuliffe spoke Friday at the City Club of Cleveland and also at the National Federation of Democratic Women's national conference, which gave him a $10,000 donation for the DNC.
When push comes to shove, McAuliffe said, Traficant will vote with Democrats on key issues such as reforms to education, prescription drug plans, a patients' bill of rights and increasing the minimum wage.
Traficant faces a 10-count federal indictment including charges of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.
Ohio party: Ohio Democratic Chairman David Leland said the state party will take a hands-off approach to finding challengers to Traficant if he chooses to run for re-election next year.
"I'd like to have a Democrat who votes for Democratic issues and Democratic leadership; that's what we're shooting for," Leland said.
McAuliffe, the most prolific fund-raiser in Democratic history, who some estimate has raised $1 billion, said the national party is making the 2002 Ohio gubernatorial race a top priority. A number of Democrats are considering a challenge to Republican Gov. Bob Taft next year.
McAuliffe also said he would welcome a bid from Cleveland as host of the Democratic national convention set to begin July 19, 2004.
Criticism of Bush: McAuliffe attacked President Bush, saying the Republican has failed his country.
He pointed to the recent decision by Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords to leave the Republican Party to become independent.
"Jeffords lived through Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and the extremism of Newt Gingrich and yet he could only last through four months of the Bush administration," he said.
"Our president is hell-bent on rolling back the progress of the past eight years. He wants to go back to the agenda that derailed us years ago. We're seeing the very same kind of indifference and aloofness that doomed the first Bush administration."