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Rockefeller, Byrd appear at fund-raiser

July 24, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - About 100 people mingled and sipped wine in David Kemnitzer's East German Street back yard Friday - and poured $100,000 into John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Guests at the Democratic fund-raiser agreed to pay a minimum of $500 apiece to be in the company of both of West Virginia's U.S. senators - John D. Rockefeller IV and Robert C. Byrd.

As the evening unfolded, the money continued to roll in. David Levine, Kerry's Jefferson County, W.Va., campaign coordinator, said the average contribution was $1,000.

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"It's the most money ever raised for a campaign in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia," said Levine, the chief executive officer of Butterfly.net, an online video game software company in Martinsburg, W.Va. "We've really gotten the attention of the Kerry campaign and the world with this."

West Virginia is considered a swing state in the November election, meaning either Kerry or President Bush, a Republican, could capture its five electoral votes.

Recognizing West Virginia's potential to lean either way, a group called the Potomac Alliance for Kerry has recruited Democrats from Maryland - a traditional Democratic stronghold - to help, said Dan Rupli of Frederick, Md.

Kerry's campaign in Pennsylvania, another swing state, has gotten the same help, Rupli said.

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said Friday's fund-raising total may bode well for Democrats because it's more money than the Gore campaign raised in all of West Virginia four years ago.

Standing behind a lectern on Kemnitzer's back step, Rockefeller started with kind words for Kerry, whom he called "policy-oriented," "moral" and "disciplined."

"He's kind of a loner, in some ways," Rockefeller said. "It means he lives with his thoughts."

Rockefeller segued into powerful praise for Byrd, whom he described as "the soul of integrity and the keeper of the nation," as well as "the conscience of the Senate."

Byrd blasted Bush, accusing him of being arrogant and disingenuous and of failing to deliver on a promise to West Virginians to fund clean coal technology.

He reserved equal wrath for Senate Republicans.

"They're wedded to the idea that the president must win on every question ... These are monarchists. ... They believe their president is like a king," Byrd said.

Kemnitzer, the host, is an architect who serves on the Shepherdstown Planning Commission. He also is a Republican.

"I am just very frustrated with the administration, how we're seen in the world, some of the really egregious things this administration has done," Kemnitzer said. "This country can do better."

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