Friends fete retiring Clayton as role model, mentor

Washington CorrespondentSeptember 30, 2002 

About 75 friends and supporters of U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton gathered in Washington last week to send early retirement wishes to the Littleton Democrat, who's stepping down after this session of Congress.

The ritzy event was held on the open-air terrace at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' headquarters just off Capitol Hill and organized by the bipartisan N.C. State Society of Washington.

Among the more memorable presentations was one from U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, who said, "if there is somebody in Congress who is going to miss Eva Clayton more than I am, I can't even imagine it."

Watt thanked Clayton for all her "motherly" guidance over the years, noting that "I can't call my mama every time I need this kind of advice."

He deftly backtracked upon realizing how that sounded. "I'm not calling her old," Watt said to laughter. "She's got wisdom that transcends the number of years she's been around."

Other members of the Tar Heel delegation included U.S. Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat, and U.S. Sen. John Edwards, also a Democrat.

Edwards noted that he had consulted Clayton before deciding to run for the Senate in 1998.

"She is a significant reason why I'm in the Senate," Edwards said.

Other notables attending the Wednesday night gathering included much of U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms' senior staff; state Sen. Brad Miller of Raleigh, who is the Democratic nominee for the 13th Congressional District; Jim McClesky, Gov. Mike Easley's top representative in Washington; and Shannon Howard, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth turned wireless-industry lobbyist who serves as president of the state society.

Sneak preview?

A recent fund-raising letter sent by Edwards' political action committee provides a preview of how an Edwards presidential campaign might sound.

In the Sept. 20 letter, Edwards rails against "arrogant, uncaring corporations," asserting that too often they "hold sway over our government through massive contributions and armies of lobbyists. The pharmaceutical giants, Big Oil, HMOs and other special interests spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to influence elections and public policy -- allowing them to profit at the expense of the American people."

He asks recipients to send him money to "level the playing field."

Edwards' PAC, the New American Optimists, will steer the money to candidates on the ballot this year willing to help "tip the scales back to the side of American families," Edwards writes.

AlthoughEdwards' PAC has been fueled mostly by large donations -- some donors have given $100,000 or more -- this mailing appears to target more modest givers. Recipients are given a choice of donating $25, $50, $100 or "other."

Blue Devils at White House

The Duke University women's golf team was among a slew of spring sports teams honored at the White House last week.

President Bush noted that the Blue Devils had won their second national title.

"Congratulations, Duke, congratulations for a victory," Bush said. "These girls told me they're going to be back next year. I look forward to seeing them again."

Clinton alums for Bowles

Erskine Bowles, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, will be in Washington on Tuesday for a fund-raiser organized by former colleagues in the Clinton administration.

Among those putting on the event, to be held at a restaurant at Union Station, are Don Baer, a North Carolinian and former White House communications director; Jennifer Palmieri, a former deputy press secretary; Steve Ricchetti, a former deputy chief of staff; and Gene Sperling, a former top economic adviser.

Bowles served in several Clinton administration positions, including White House chief of staff.

Rival in the room

U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a potential rival to U.S. Sen. John Edwards for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, was among the politicians who addressed a gathering in Washington this week of Chamber of Commerce officials from North Carolina.

The two-day event, sponsored by a bipartisan group from the Tar Heel delegation, also featured appearances by U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and CNN "Crossfire" co-host Tucker Carlson, among others.

Meanwhile, during a breakfast meeting with reporters Wednesday, Kerry offered an interesting take on whether former Vice President Al Gore will seek the presidency in 2004.

"Somebody told me the other day that the Republicans are concerned he won't run," Kerry quipped.

By Washington correspondent John Wagner, who can be reached at (202) 662-4380 or

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