University alum James Whitaker said he welcomes all the help he
can get. As a first-time Democratic candidate for the state House
of Representatives, he hopes to mount a challenge against Rep. Fran
Amos (R-Waterford), an incumbent with more far more resources than
him.

Enter former presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Dean’s new group, Democracy for America, which he
announced the creation of last week, is designed to provide money
and strategic consulting for aspiring Democratic politicians at all
levels of government. “Our new enterprise will help in every
way possible,” the former Vermont governor said while
announcing DFA’s formation in a speech last Thursday in
Seattle. “We will put to work our national grassroots network
and organizing tools to help candidates win.”

The mission of DFA is four-fold: to recruit progressive
candidates at all levels of government, to raise money for those
candidates, to develop partnerships with other progressive
organizations and to develop relationships with similar political
groups.

Whitaker, who plans to complete his MBA from Michigan State
University this spring, said he contacted Dean’s organization
to obtain help with his campaign.

Just one day after the establishment of the group,
Whitaker’s name and meeting information appeared on
DFA’s website.

“I hope people who were motivated by Dean stay involved
and use their power,” Whitaker said.

But Jeff Stormo, public policy and research director for the
state Republican Party, said he believes the DFA will have very
little effect in Michigan, if any at all. “The impact (Dean)
is going to have is going to be with a very small group of his
supporters,” Stormo said, adding that “angry”
Dean is just attempting to use leftover money from his campaign at
a different level.

The Republican National Committee echoed these sentiments. RNC
spokeswoman Heather Layman downplayed the potential impact of the
DFA, categorizing it with other groups campaigning against
President Bush and other Republicans, like moveon.org, a group
which has purchased air time for anti-Bush commercials in the last
few weeks.

“We want to elect Republicans from the state House to the
White House. That is what we will continue to do with our
grassroots effort: reaching out to new voters and communicating
Republican policies that we believe are the right policies for
America,” Layman said.

The Michigan Democratic Party said they have not yet been in
direct contact with the DFA, but would welcome any assistance the
group may provide. “(Dean) has shown the ability to bring new
people to the party and the political process and demonstrated new
and innovative ways, including using aspects of technology, to get
people involved in politics,” state Democratic Party
spokesman Jason Moon said. Moon added that he believes the DFA will
have a positive impact on Democratic candidates in Michigan.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who got her political start
at the grassroots level in 1974 when she was elected to the Ingham
County Board Commission, said she realizes the necessity to support
upcoming Democratic candidates. “There’s so much at
stake in this election,” Stabenow said. “I think
it’s wonderful what (Dean) is doing.”

Stabenow said she has not talked with Dean recently, but plans
on campaigning in Michigan along with Dean and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin
(D-Mich.) for state-level candidates.

The DFA is not the only organization helping candidates at the
local level. Both the Democratic and Republican state and national
committees currently provide services for candidates, including
donating money, providing strategic assistance, locating
volunteers, preparing mailings and buying advertising time.

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