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elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, Sen. John Kerry was overwhelmingly
re-elected to a fourth term on November 5, 2002. Kerry is the ranking
Democratic member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.>
(He served as chair during the year and a half long period of Democratic
control of the Senate that began with the Jeffords' switch in June 2001).
He also serves on the Commerce, Finance, and Foreign Relations Committees
and is ranking member of the Hispanic Task Force. Through 2002 he
chaired the Senate Democratic Leadership Steering and Coordination Committee.
Kerry had considered making a presidential run in 2000, but ruled out a bid for the White House on February 26, 1999, stating that "the time is not right." Throughout 2001 and through to November 2002, he indicated that he would likely make a White House bid, while avoiding any outright declaration in deference to his '02 re-election campaign.
Kerry raised about $13.5 million for the race, demonstrating strong fundraising ability. However, after the sole Republican contender failed to collect enough signatures to make the ballot, Kerry faced only Libertarian challenger Michael Cloud. He swamped Cloud, who went on a six-day hunger strike at the end of the campaign in an effort to garner attention, by a 81% to 19% margin. Kerry's re-election campaign spent some $8.6 million, $3.2 million of which went to pay off debts from his tight 1996 campaign against William Weld. He finished with about $3.1 million in cash on hand and built up a direct mail list with about 200,000 names.
On December 1, 2002, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," the Massachusetts senator announced formation of an exploratory committee. From the start, Kerry has been seen as one of the frontrunners in the crowded Democratic field, in large part because his service in Vietnam offers a basis upon which to stand up to President Bush on defense and security issues. However, Kerry's support of the resolution on Iraq was not popular among some Democrats, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was able to use that issue, a blunt, plainspoken style, and an insurgent, Internet savvy campaign to build a very competitive challenge for the nomination. Kerry's campaign has downplayed the buzz surrounding Dean, saying that their goal is to peak at the right time. On September 2, 2003, in front of the USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, Kerry formally announced his candidacy declaring, "I believe that the courage of Americans can change this country."
Readers will be able to find out more about Sen. Kerry and his vision in a couple of books. He has penned A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America (Viking Press, October 9, 2003), and helped historian Douglas Brinkley with material for Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (Viking Press, January 6, 2004) which is scheduled to be published less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.
Leading on Energy...
Kerry was a leading opponent of efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "It will never pass the Senate," he said in an August 1, 2001 statement. "You don't have to destroy a wildlife refuge to meet the energy needs of America," he told attendees of the California Democratic Party convention in February 2002. When the energy bill came up in early March, Kerry and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) produced a bipartisan proposal to increase fuel efficiency standards. The amendment would have required automakers to achieve an average of 36 mpg for their combined passenger car and light truck fleets by model year 2015, however, on March 13 the Senate voted in favor of a weaker amendment sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Kit Bond (R-MO). Debate on the energy bill continued, and on April 18 Sens. Kerry, Lieberman, and other opponents of drilling in ANWR succeeded in putting a halt to the Administration's proposal as a cloture motion fell 14 votes short of the 60 required (S.Amdt.3132--46 to 54 vote).
...And Small Business Relief
Kerry has also been concerned about the shortage of professional nurses. In 2001, he introduced several versions of a Nurse Reinvestment Act (S.706 and S.1597), and a bill (S.1864) eventually did pass the Senate and was signed into law in August 2002.
Political Notes: On December 17, 2001 Kerry opened the Citizen Soldier Fund, a leadership PAC, to help Democratic candidates. In addition to his visits to the politically important states of New Hampshire and Iowa, Sen. Kerry also made the rounds nationally, speaking to various Democratic and other groups.1 He touched upon the theme of the "citizen soldier" in many of these speeches. For example, he concluded his remarks at the California Democratic Party convention on February 16, 2002 proclaiming, "I say it's time we joined together in our beloved country, all of us as Citizen Soldiers, committed to a cause greater than ourselves to ensure that no American is left behind."2
2. Note echoes of 2000 campaign rhetoric in the second part of this line. Sen. John McCain frequently spoke about a cause greater than ourselves; one of Bush's major themes was "no child left behind."
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Kerry, who served as lieutenant
governor under Michael Dukakis, will likely be stereotyped as a Massachusetts
Readings and Resources
Calvin Woodward. "An ambition to lead powers Kerry through maelstrom of war and jarring career turns." Associated Press. October 9, 2003. (1,850 words)
Kerry: Candidate in the Making" series:
Mark Z. Barabak. "John F. Kerry: The Massachusetts Senator, A Decorated Veteran, Mixes Strong Liberal Credentials With Pro-War Stands on Iraq." Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2003. [Fourth of "The Democratic Hopefuls" series].
Laura Blumenfeld. "Hunter, Dreamer, Realist: Complexity Infuses Senator's Ambition." Washington Post, June 1, 2003. [First of "The Contenders" series].
David Nather. "Kerry's Complex Record and His Pursuit of the Presidency." CQ Weekly, April 26, 2003. ["The Road Up Pennsylvania Avenue" series]
Julia Reed. "A Man in Full." Vogue, March 2003.
Adam Nagourney. "Antiwar Veteran Eager for Battle." New York Times, December 9, 2002, page A22. [First of weekly series on presidential prospects]. (1,936 words)
Joe Klein. "The Long War of John Kerry." The New Yorker, December 2, 2002.
Jonathan Miles. "A Lighter Side of John Kerry." Men's Journal, August 2002.
Sally Jacobs. "The importance of being not so earnest." Boston Globe, May 1, 2002, page D1.
Paul Alexander. "John Kerry: Ready for His Close Up." Rolling Stone, April 11, 2002.
C-SPAN's "American Politics" ran a profile (about 56 minutes long, taped in Nov. 2001) of Sen. Kerry on Feb. 17, 2002.
Photo caption: Sen. John Kerry at a May 9, 2001 rally on Capitol Hill.
Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action