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AP: Economy/Jobs Top Issues for Connecticut Delegates to Dem Convention

The Associated Press, in a poll of Connecticut delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, found that most view the economy and jobs as the top issue facing the nation in this presidential year.

Education and the war in Iraq rank second and third respectively.

Westport has one delegate in the delegation Martha Aasen, chair of the town֒s Democratic committee. Westporter Bob Rose is a convention alternate.

The economy, education and the war scored higher in importance among the delegates than other issues such as crime, moral values, taxes, health care and fighting terrorism, the AP said.

Connecticut will be represented by 62 delegates at the convention. Most of the delegates are white. About half are men and half are women, while nearly half have graduate or professional degrees and two-thirds are married, the news agency said.

Fifty-three of the 62 delegates responded to AP’s survey.

Most of those surveyed, 45 percent, said they favor allowing gay couples to marry. While almost 17 percent oppose it, 38 percent either refused to answer the question or said they support other options for couples such as civil unions.

The vast majority of state Democratic delegates favor abortion rights for women, the survey found.

Among those surveyed, 79 percent said they support a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Slightly more of the male delegates than the female delegates take that position.

Many of the delegates said they are strong supporters of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry but admit they originally backed Connecticuts Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

The largest block of delegates hasn’t yet made up their minds as to who should be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.

But Sen. Hillary Clinton, receives more support than anyone else mentioned – 28 percent. Sen. John Edwards, Kerry’s running mate, is a close second at 21 percent.

Lieberman and Sen. Christopher Dodd were also mentioned by delegates as possible candidates.

Asked if they think another Connecticut resident, consumer activist Ralph Nader, will take away enough support from Kerry to cost him the election, most delegates – 72 percent – said no, according to the AP.

Sunday’s The Advocate of Stamford/Norwalk reported that compared with the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, when Stamford native son Joseph Lieberman was about to be nominated for vice president, Connecticut’s delegation to this week’s convention in Boston will be much less high-profile.

But Fairfield County delegates said last week that they view their job this year as more challenging in some ways and more sharply defined as the party nominates U.S. Sen. John Kerry to run for president, the newspaper said.

“The stakes are higher in this one,” said Connecticut Democratic Party Chairman George Jepsen, who in 2000 was the state Senate majority leader, in his fifth term representing Stamford and Darien.

“A lot of people, including myself, think this is the most important election since Roosevelt in 1932. You have to go that far back to find this much of a difference between the parties in a contested election.”

The Advocate quoted Aasen as saying that in the past two months, national party Chairman Terry McAuliffe and John Kerry’s brother, Cameron Kerry, have been in Westport for small political events.

“They said the DNC is going to be putting together people from safe states—and they are considering Connecticut a safe state—and traveling to and working in the battleground states,” Aasen said.

Aasen, who has attended four other Democratic conventions dating to 1960, said the Boston convention also will be a time for delegates, who are for the most part the most active party members, “to bond and get exhilarated to go home and do those things that are somewhat mundane, but also very, very necessary,” such as organizing registration drives and get-out-the-vote campaigns, the newspaper said.

Aasen said those activities are important for the success of other Democratic races as well, including the contest between Westport First Selectwoman Diane G. Farrell and Republican Rep. Christopher Shays for the 4th Congressional District seat.

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