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Democratic Convention briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 17, 2000

Florida gets top spot in nomination roll call

LOS ANGELES -- All week, Florida delegates have been wondering if the Gore campaign was giving up on the state. They got assigned to a hotel 15 miles from the Democratic National Convention, they got lousy seats and, on Tuesday morning, got stood up by Sen. Joe Lieberman's wife, Hadassah.

But Wednesday night, the Gore campaign made a symbolic gesture to show it still cared about Florida: The state was selected to put Gore over the top to clinch the nomination.

And Sen. Bob Graham cast the deciding votes late Wednesday.

The campaign considered picking Graham as Gore's running mate because polls showed his popularity in Florida would give Gore a good chance of winning the state. When Graham was bypassed, some people said it indicated the Gore campaign might concede the state.

But Florida Democrats said the latest gesture indicates Florida will truly be a battleground.

"It's sending a message loud and clear that not only are we playing in Florida, we're playing aggressively," said Tony Welch, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party.

Gephardt touts takeover

Calling Republicans "intolerant of other views," House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said Wednesday that Democrats must win House control if a Democratic White House's policies are to have a chance to become law.

The Missouri lawmaker, likely to become speaker if his party wins a House majority this November, used a speech to the convention to praise Vice President Gore as "a good man" who cares about his family and country.

But Gephardt said that even a Gore victory would not be enough because the House's majority party sets that chamber's agenda. House GOP leaders have been unwilling to allow progress on prescription drug benefits, new rights for managed-care patients, hiring teachers and other issues, he said.

"Every day in every way the Republican leadership has been one-sided -- intolerant of other views -- unbending to compromise and consensus," Gephardt said.

Gore, DNC paid firm founded by scandal figure

The Democratic Party abruptly ended its relationship Wednesday night with a telephone fundraising firm after learning that the company founder continued to work there even after his conviction in the Teamsters union scandal.

Records show the company, Share Group Inc., was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Democratic National Committee and Vice President Gore's 2000 election campaign.

The action was taken after the Associated Press told the party that founder Michael Ansara continued to work at the company as a contract employee and that his wife still owns half the company.

"We have verified the information that he is a contract employee and based on that information we plan to terminate any future business with Share Group," DNC spokesman Jenny Backus said.

Democratic Party officials said they had ascertained before they hired the firm in late 1997 that Ansara wasn't involved in the day-to-day operations.

At the same time, correspondence shows they were informed that Ansara still owned more than half the firm and had pleaded guilty to conspiring with other Teamsters to misuse union dues for the union's 1996 election.

Ansara later shifted the stock to his wife, who remains on the company board. The company said Ansara was removed as chief executive in 1997 but has been hired back as a contract employee.

Arrest total nears 200

Police faced off with about 2,500 demonstrators outside the Democratic National Convention Wednesday after the protesters, chanting of police brutality, marched from police headquarters to the convention site.

Trouble broke out as officers tried to get a truck through an intersection blocked by the protesters, who then began throwing bottles and other objects.

The police responded by splitting the crowd in half and taking over the intersection, using batons. Several rubber bullets were fired.

After a standoff, many of the protesters moved north, and there was another brief scuffle. A California Highway Patrol officer was struck in the chest by a bottle filled with an unidentified liquid that splashed on his face. He was taken to a hospital, a patrol official said.

The convention city arrest total was near 200 through Wednesday, but significant violence was limited to a clash after a rock concert at the protest site Monday night.

Wednesday's demonstration moved to police headquarters and then to the convention site. On the way, helmeted officers carrying batons stood two-deep as activists shouting in bullhorns and holding banners in Spanish and English moved across downtown.

Earlier Wednesday, officers arrested about 30 activists staging a sit-in at a police station west of downtown.

"No justice, no peace, no racist police," protesters shouted there.

Crime victims' families step forward for Dems

Families of some prominent recent crime victims were pressed into service Wednesday to showcase Al Gore as a fighter for gun controls and hate-crime laws.

To underscore the need to attack hate crimes, the convention called on Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and left to die on a fence. Ross Byrd and Rene Mullins, the children of a black man who was chained to a truck and dragged to his death in Texas, also appeared.

"Hate crimes must die but my father's legacy must live on," Mullins told the crowd. "America has a choice in November." Texas delegates chanted as she finished: "Never again in Texas."

Two men convicted in the killing of James Byrd Jr. were sentenced to death; a third, to life in prison.

A coalition of activists who are pressing for hate-crime legislation said the presence of Matthew Shepard's parents and Byrd's children helped drive home a contrast between Gore, who supports giving federal prosecutors more leeway in bringing hate-crime charges, and his Republican presidential opponent, George W. Bush.

Bush, the Texas governor, says "all crime is hate crime" and declined to support legislation in his state last year, inspired by Byrd's death, to expand hate-crime laws.

Short takes

CLINTON WALKED "THE WALK': Wondering about that interminably long stroll Clinton took Monday night through the bowels of the Staples Center after his introduction? "The Walk," as it has come to be known, was inspired by one of the president's favorite films, High Noon, says Hollywood producer Harry Thomason, who choreographed the entrance. "We needed a way to build on the good will in the audience and have him feeling good by the time he got on the stage," Thomason said. "And I think we succeeded."

I WOULD LIKE FRIES WITH THAT: Mere moments after hugging Al Gore and leaving him alone onstage in a symbolic passing of power, President Clinton made a beeline for the local McDonald's and ordered a cholesterol-laden meal. When the president pulled out a wad of $20 bills to pay for his crispy chicken sandwich, french fries and Diet Coke, the young clerks refused his money: "It's on the house. They didn't tell you?"

NEVER TOO LATE: Howard Metzenbaum, the feisty 83-year-old former three-term senator from Ohio, has spent much of his time at the Democratic convention trying to motivate delegates to fight for party candidates. After a rousing speech Tuesday to the Ohio delegation, Metzenbaum got so many handshakes, hugs and hurrahs that he proclaimed: "I think I'll run as a write-in."

On today's schedule

THEME: "Al Gore's Vision for the Future"

SPEAKERS: California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante; Kweisi Mfume, president of NAACP; Kristin Gore, to introduce her mother Tipper Gore; Tipper Gore, to introduce husband; Al Gore's acceptance speech.

TELEVISION: ABC and CBS, 9-11 p.m.; NBC, 9:30-11 p.m.; PBS, 8-11 p.m. C-SPAN, 5 p.m.-midnight; CNN, 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; MSNBC: 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Fox News Channel, 6 p.m.-1 a.m.

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