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Presidential Race
Kerry wraps vacation, prepares to accept union endorsement and unite party
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KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry wrapped up a nearly weeklong vacation inSun Valley on Wednesday and returned to Washington to accept a key union endorsement and rally former rival Howard Dean and other party leaders behind his candidacy.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will endorse Kerry on Thursday in a meeting of the union�s executive council, Democratic officials said. AFSCME, with 1.3 million members, is the second-largest union in the AFL-CIO.

Kerry is meeting privately Thursday with members of the Democratic National Committee, then speaking to the National Newspaper Publishers Association. He has a private meeting with Dean�s congressional supporters and donors, then plans to accept Dean�s endorsement during a rally at George Washington University, followed by the AFSCME endorsement.

The Democratic chiefs come together Thursday night to recognize Kerry as the new leader of the party and raise more than $10 million for the DNC�s effort to defeat President Bush. Kerry will be joined by former Presidents Carter and Clinton, 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and all his primary rivals except Dennis Kucinich and Carol Moseley Braun.

In a message posted on the Web site for his new organization, Democracy For America, Dean urged his supporters to back Kerry�s campaign. �The primary goal throughout my campaign was to send George Bush back to Texas,� Dean wrote. �John Kerry shares this goal and is the only person with a chance of doing just that.�

Dean also tried to persuade his supporters not to back a third-party candidate who might siphon votes away from Kerry. �The future of our country depends on defeating this president, so this election is much too important to support any effort by any third candidate,� he said.

AFSCME had endorsed Dean last fall and helped propel his candidacy to front-runner status for a while. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee yanked the endorsement last month after Dean had failed to win any of the first 11 Democratic primaries yet insisted he would stay in the race.

AFSCME, which spends more on politics than any other union, wanted to immediately stem the bleeding of manpower and campaign coffers to a losing campaign. Its political action committee spent $847,120, including $583,366 in independent expenditures in support of Dean in February, according to a Federal Election Commission report.

McEntee is a major player in Democratic Party politics, and his early endorsement of Bill Clinton helped propel the former Arkansas governor to the presidency. He had flirted with backing Kerry and Wesley Clark before jumping on Dean�s bandwagon when the former Vermont governor was leading in polls and fund raising.


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