Local political leaders declare presidential preferrences

"Though neither party will officially endorse a candidate for presidential primaries and caucuses, individual Kitsap County Democrats and Republicans have already picked their favorites.So far, leadership in both camps appear to be lining up in favor of Democratic Vice President Al Gore and GOP Texas Gov. George W. Bush.Though the party approves of both candidates, Kitsap County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Russ Hartman personally gave the thumbs up to Gore. I think the vice president is the strongest candidate. I've seen Gore appear personally twice, and I think he has a real firm command of issues and has the judgement to be a good president, Hartman said. He has the personal qualities and what it takes to be a effective executive.Chair Karl Duff of the Kitsap County Republican Party did not respond to repeated calls for comment, but vice chair Margie Crowell said she personally endorsed George W. Bush for he country's top office. I just like his policies and what he is running on better than (John) McCain. Though either would make a fine candidate, Crowell said.Hartman and Crowell both said members of the local parties are rallying behind competing interests: that is, some Democrats support Bill Bradley and some Gore, while some Republicans support McCain and others back Bush.Like Crowell, Republican Joyce Ames endorsed Bush. Ames, a Port Orchard resident, is the former Peninsula District Director for the Washington Federation of Republican Women.At this point, it looks like George W. Bush. The more I hear about (John) McCain, the less I like him, Ames said. Bush comes across as just much more honest than John McCain.Virginia McKinney, chair of the 35th Legislative District for the county Democrats, said her personal choice, like Hart-man's, is Gore.I think the man has the character and the stability and the knowledge to be our next president, McKinney said. I listened to the man who guided him up Mt. Rainier, and if anyone heard that they would know he is a strong leader.Here they were in white-out conditions and Gore told the leader that they came to do this and if he thought they could they would continue.Declining to come out in support of one candidate or another was the fledgling People of Color Caucus for the Democrats. We will probably follow the central committee's lead of endorsing both candidates, organizer Dean Miyakusu said."

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