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Political Notebook

Clinton stumps for Emanuel in Chicago race

Former president Bill Clinton boosted his onetime aide Rahm Emanuel at a rally for the Chicago mayoral candidate yesterday. Former president Bill Clinton boosted his onetime aide Rahm Emanuel at a rally for the Chicago mayoral candidate yesterday. (M. Spencer Green/Associated Press)
January 19, 2011

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CHICAGO — Former president Bill Clinton lent his support and celebrity to a former top aide yesterday, telling a crowd of hundreds of people they should back Rahm Emanuel’s bid to be the next mayor of Chicago because he’s “fearlessly honest’’ and not afraid to push for change.

“If you want a big mayor . . . if you want to reinvent yourself one more time and come out better than ever, if you want the Windy City to have a gale force of leadership, Rahm Emanuel is your mayor,’’ Clinton told the crowd.

Clinton praised Emanuel, who also served as Clinton’s campaign finance director, as one of the key reasons he was elected president. Emanuel returned the praise, extolling Clinton’s accomplishments during two terms in office.

“I could not ask for a better role model than you,’’ Emanuel said to Clinton.

Clinton made the high-profile visit to Chicago to stump for Emanuel, one of six candidates in the Feb. 22 race to replace the retiring Mayor Richard Daley. Unless a candidate gets a majority of the voters, there will be an April runoff.

Clinton told the crowd that Emanuel is “fearlessly honest’’ and is not afraid push for change. Being Chicago mayor is a big job and he said Emanuel knows how to set good policy and make things happen.

“Rahm’s not even 6 feet tall. He probably weighs about 150 pounds dripping wet. But in all the ways it matters, he is a very big person,’’ Clinton said.

Three of Emanuel’s rivals, former US senator Carol Moseley Braun, former schools president Gery Chico, and City Clerk Miguel del Valle, have emphasized their deep city roots while saying Emanuel is more of a Washington insider. Moseley Braun has the support of many black leaders in the city, while Chico picked up the endorsement of Congressman Luis Gutierrez this month.

Emanuel worked for Clinton during the 1990s, first as a top campaign staffer and then as a senior adviser. He played a role in a number of policy initiatives, including passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been unpopular with unions.

Larry Bennett, a DePaul University political scientist, said bringing in a figure of Clinton’s stature to campaign on his behalf could help underline Emanuel’s importance.

“It probably represents a plus for Emanuel,’’ said Bennett, author of “Third City: Chicago and American Urbanism.’’

“It suggests, ‘I’ve got some leverage,’ ’’ he said.

— Associated Press

North Dakota’s Conrad won’t return to Senate WASHINGTON — Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota, a leading deficit hawk who would have faced a tough reelection fight, said yesterday he will not seek another term in 2012.

The decision will give Republicans a major opportunity to pick up another seat in a state where last year they defeated longtime Democratic Representative Earl Pomeroy. Veteran Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan also retired rather than face a Republican challenge.

Conrad, 62, is the first Democrat in the Senate to announce his retirement ahead of the 2012 elections; last week Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison said she wouldn’t seek reelection. Democrats, who control the Senate with 53 votes to 47 for Republicans, will be defending 23 of the 33 seats up for a vote in 2012.

“There are serious challenges facing our state and nation,’’ Conrad said in a statement. “It is more important I spend my time and energy trying to solve these problems than to be distracted by a campaign for reelection.’’

In a sign of how competitive a race would have been, the Republican-leaning American Future Fund already has run radio ads opposing Conrad’s reelection. Last week, North Dakota public service commissioner Brian Kalk, a Republican, said he was considering challenging Conrad.

His retirement is a blow to efforts to rein in the federal budget, said Bob Bixby, head of the Washington-based Concord Coalition, which promotes balanced budgets.

“He’s been a go-to guy for deficit hawks,’’ Bixby said. “Everybody talks about, but Conrad has really made it a cause and heightened the profile of the issue and we’ll be losing that.’’

Conrad, who is sometimes teased by his colleagues for the many budget charts he often brings to congressional hearings, was instrumental in the creation of the administration’s deficit commission. He refused to vote for a debt-ceiling hike early last year unless the panel was created.

He supported a $3.8 trillion budget-cutting plan proposed by the commission’s co-chairmen though it was rejected by the panel.

This year, he joined Republicans in calling for tough cuts as part of any deal to allow a long-term increase in the debt ceiling. He said, though, he won’t oppose short-term increases in borrowing limits.

— Bloomberg News

No second thoughts on Gulf War for elder Bush HOUSTON — President George H.W. Bush says he’s comfortable that the defining moment of his presidency was the Gulf War, which began 20 years ago this week.

In an interview yesterday, Bush also says he’s relieved the loss of American lives was minimal after critics warned “thousands of body bags’’ would be needed for casualties. And he doesn’t regret stopping the war with a vanquished Saddam Hussein retaining power in Iraq.

Bush says he doesn’t think he would have done anything differently.

While he acknowledges hoping Hussein would “do himself in in some way,’’ he says the mission was liberating Kuwait, not ousting the Iraqi leader.

Bush will commemorate the war tomorrow during a reunion of top administration officials at his presidential library at Texas A&M University.

— Associated Press