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Ronald Dellums for mayor

 

After 27 years in Congress and almost eight more as the director of an international health care group and a beltway lobbyist, Ron Dellums may be considering a run for the Oakland mayor's job.

Officially, the Oakland native is still mulling the idea, but the possibility has City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente nervous because he'd almost certainly lose his front-runner status in the 2006 race to replace Jerry Brown.

"That's life,'' he said. "I've known him for a long, long time, and this will make it (the race) harder, but Oakland is a long way from Washington.''

Apparently, not far enough.

Dellums did not return calls seeking comment. His wife, Leola, said he is weighing a run but will not decide until October. And De La Fuente says he's heard that the former congressman is in.

Dellums' candidacy would mirror the run made by two-term Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, a former California governor and four-time presidential candidate.

Both men are widely recognized on the national stage -- Brown for his left-leaning presidential campaigns and Dellums for his vigilance as chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, where he kept close watch on the country's military proliferation policies.

Should he run, Dellums would in all likelihood become the front-runner over De La Fuente, City Council member Nancy Nadel and city Treasurer Donald White.

De La Fuente -- the favorite since announcing his candidacy in October and supported by such heavy-hitters as Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D- Oakland, former City Councilman Dick Spees and City Councilman Larry Reid -- would instantly fall to second. Although De La Fuente is popular with voters, his standing doesn't compare with the love residents have for Dellums -- who handily bested all challengers during his 27 years representing the Ninth Congressional District.

Nadel's campaign also would be detrimentally affected. Nadel has fashioned her career after Dellums' crusading style, first seen on the Berkeley City Council in 1967. So Oakland's most liberal voters would have a choice between Dellums, the original, or Nadel, a reasonable facsimile.

It's not hard to imagine whom they'd choose.

White, a first-time candidate, is already viewed as a longshot and would become little more than a footnote if Dellums ran.

Beyond his electability, you have to wonder how Dellums will adjust to life in a pond after decades navigating the shark-infested waters of the nation's capital.

It's important to note that one of the sharks the 69-year-old Dellums made sure to avoid was the media. He never appeared on talk shows or called reporters, he never did much spinning, and he conspicuously avoided the limelight. He issued fewer news releases in all of 1997 than his Democratic colleague Rep. Ellen Tauscher shipped off in July of that year.

That won't do in Oakland, where as mayor, Dellums would be riddled with calls from the media on a daily basis.

What would be welcome is the decorum and civility Dellums might bring to Oakland, where Brown has often squabbled with the City Council.

"Ron Dellums had his own style even inside the Beltway,'' said Michael Barone, author of the Almanac of American Politics, the Beltway's political bible. "He had a hard-left voting record, and I'm told he was in the minority on most views among the Democrats and Republicans on the committee. But as chair, he ran the committee with great fairness and decorum, taking the majority opinion to the floor, even when he didn't agree -- and he did so with great dignity.''

While people may question Dellums' motivations for returning, the one thing that no one, especially any of his prospective opponents, should ever question is the man's toughness. If he does enter the race, he will be a force.

It was never easy for a Berkeley City Council member perceived as a bell- bottomed, Afro-wearing hippie to elbow a place at the table in Washington politics -- even though he'd served two years in the U.S. Marines -- but that's just what Dellums did.

In his first two years on the House Armed Services Committee, Dellums literally shared a single chair with Pat Schroeder, a former Democratic congresswoman from Colorado and the first woman on the committee.

The committee chair at the time, Louisiana Democrat Edward Hebert, ordered the arrangement in 1973 because "that girl and that black are each worth about half. I'll give them one chair.''

Dellums endured that humiliation and went on to lead the committee, where he openly questioned military spending and proliferation, criticized military action, and advocated for a shift in government spending from military to domestic programs. In 1992, he pushed for a $50 billion shift of military spending, saying he wanted "to give our children back their dreams, to give our workers back their work."

If Dellums does run, it wouldn't be the first time that a congressman returned home after many years away to take the reins of city leadership.

 

Sheehan brings Iraq war protest to the White House

(KRT) - Three weeks after she packed up the anti-war camp named for her slain son outside President Bush's Texas ranch and took her protest on the road, Cindy Sheehan was back at his doorstep Wednesday.

Once again, it was as close as she could get to the president.

"This is our house, and they don't let us get into our house," she said outside the White House's iron fence after she was denied entry to deliver a poster-size letter to Bush questioning the Iraq war.

"A lot of these people who are there are criminals, and we need to get them out of our house," said Sheehan, who was joined by about 30 family members of Iraq war soldiers. Among them were Karen Meredith of Mountain View, Calif., whose son died in Iraq last year, and Anne Roesler of Saratoga, Calif., whose son left last month for his third tour.

Forced to pass their letter through the fence to a Secret Service agent, Sheehan said they hoped to deliver an even stronger message Saturday. They will participate in an anti-war protest that organizers hope will be the largest since the United States attacked Iraq in 2003.

But 25 military families who support the war say Sheehan doesn't speak for them, so they'll hold their own rally Sunday in Washington. Sunday is the annual "Gold Star Mother's Day" in tribute to mothers of fallen sons and daughters. Bush on Wednesday instructed that the U.S. flag be flown over government buildings and also urged Americans to display the flag.

Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Baghdad in 2004, became a celebrity as she planted herself outside the vacationing Bush's ranch for nearly a month and demanded a meeting. She never got it. But her protest at "Camp Casey" drew about 12,000 war opponents and intense media coverage.

Hurricane Katrina diverted most of that attention. Now Hurricane Rita is expected to make landfall in Texas on Saturday, most likely overshadowing the anti-war protest.

But Sheehan and her group said they'll continue to make their case. They noted that nine Americans died in Iraq on Tuesday, and a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll this week found that 54 percent would cut spending in Iraq to pay for hurricane reconstruction.

"We need to put the war, the tragedy of the war, out in front of the American public once and for all so we can end it," Sheehan said at a news conference.

That's what she and her supporters have tried to do since leaving Texas. They split into three groups and took their "Bring Them Home Now Tour" to 51 cities. Their trio of 31-foot RVs rolled into Washington about noon Wednesday. Sheehan and the others marched to the steps of the Capitol, carrying large photos of their loved ones - some dead, some still fighting.

"While our elected officials lay in their beds at night and sleep comfortably, I lay awake. I worry about my son," said Roesler, an assistant professor of health science at San Jose State University. Her son is Michael Diez, an Army staff sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division. She is hoping that the participation of soldiers' families will show Americans that the opposition to the war is not limited to "peaceniks."

There will be at least one person at Saturday's anti-war rally who has never been to one before: Meredith, whose 26-year-old son, 1st Lt. Kenneth Ballard, a tank commander, lost his life in Iraq.

"I don't like big crowds, but when I stood over my son's grave ... I said, `If I don't talk, how will people know how it feels to be the mother of a soldier who was killed in a war that we didn't believe in?'" she said.

Like others in Sheehan's group, which set up a new Camp Casey on the National Mall near the White House, she said her involvement in the anti-war movement won't end Saturday.

"We want people in this country to know this wasn't a summer fling. This is something that we're serious about," Meredith said.

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