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Manton stays true to Dean at Flushing Dem club meet

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Queens County Democratic Organization Chairman Tom Manton had one message for the Democratic Club of Flushing on Sunday: Anybody but Bush.

And although some club members were looking for a Democratic candidate to support in this year’s presidential election besides Howard Dean, Manton stuck by the Queens party’s early endorsement of the former Vermont governor, who has yet to win a primary.

“Dean is not doing so bad in terms of delegates,” Manton told a well-attended meeting of the Democratic Club of Flushing at Flushing Hospital.

Citing the large number of delegates still up for grabs in the March 2 Super Tuesday primaries , Manton, who is co-chairman of Dean’s state campaign, said the vote could be “a big day for the Dean campaign.”

New York and California will be among the states holding primaries that day.

The Queens Democratic organization threw its support behind Dean in November, even before former Vice President Al Gore formally endorsed him. Gore’s announcement of support in December was followed a day later by that of nine Queens city council members.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) later replaced Dean as the front-runner by beating him in Iowa, where Dean made a wildly impassioned speech after his defeat that was widely ridiculed in the media.

But Manton said the Democratic nomination ought not be decided “on the basis of a couple of hoots and hollers” after long weeks of campaigning.

Manton said Dean had even called him at home recently to shore up support.

“He wanted to know that we’re still with him,” said Manton. “A lot of people were jumping ship.”

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), Comptroller Alan Hevesi and city Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum endorsed Kerry after U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) pulled out of the race.

Asked by club members whom they should support as an alternative to Dean, Manton responded “Anybody but Bush.”

Julia Harrison, the club’s district leader and a former Flushing councilwoman, said “we’re all in a quandary on how to choose the best candidate.”

The club took a poll asking members whether it should endorse a candidate, and the plurality of respondents said it was too early to make an endorsement.

Decrying the Patriot Act and President George Bush’s $2.4 trillion proposed budget, Harrison said, “We have to get rid of Bush. We’re ready to go out there and do battle.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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